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Polygraph: Testing sex offenders in Ireland

The polygraph has long been used in the rehabilitation of sex offenders in the US. A study The Value of Polygraph Testing in Sex Offender Management; Research report submitted to the National Institute of Justice* concluded that there were a number of benefits in relation to testing post-conviction sex offenders, including:

  • Enhanced disclosure and knowledge of the offender
  • The polygraph was useful in alerting agents to potential violations, behaviours, and areas of concern that might not have otherwise been revealed.
  • A “forced a level of honesty” that would not otherwise be attainable.
  • The polygraph led to better management and supervision of the offender, it also resulted in better and more appropriate treatment
  • The polygraph provided information that allowed a quicker response to situations, and could lead to “stepped-up” supervision or additional restrictions, if necessary.
  • The polygraph was seen as a useful tool to verify compliance with conditions of probation
  • More than half the respondents noted that the polygraph helped to prevent new offenses.
  • It could be helpful in detecting behaviours likely to precede a crime, so the system could intervene with treatment and/or otherwise protect possible victims.
  • When a crime was committed, it could be detected earlier, perhaps to the benefit of additional victims.

Nearer to home the U.K have recently concluded a three year trial which involved testing paedophiles and sex offenders to establish whether they are still posing a danger to the community. There is a strong possibility that these tests will become compulsory in the UK.

It is now time that the monitoring and supervision of sex offenders in Ireland is taken seriously. At the moment supervision and management is practically non-existent in Ireland. We need to keep our communities and children safe and the polygraph has proven elsewhere to be a valuable tool as part of this process. Polygraph testing of convicted sex offenders should be introduced as a matter of urgency.

*The Value of Polygraph testing in Sex Offender management;

Research Report Submitted to the National Institute of Justice: English K, Jones L, Pasini-Hill D, Patrick D, Cooley-Towell S.

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