Times caption: The use of polygraph testing on serious sex offenders has been seen as a success (ALAMY)
At times I despair of The Times, the paper to which I’ve subscribed for years. This is one of those times. The headline above this story – in today’s paper – is, “Men who abuse partners could face lie detector”. Did it not occur to the headline writer that not all abusers are men? Apparently not. And the photograph at the head of the piece (above) simply reinforces the false impression. The writers of the piece are Greg Hurst (Social Affairs Editor) and Frances Gibb (Legal Editor):
Men who are convicted of the most serious types of domestic violence and abuse face being forced to take repeated lie-detector tests in a change intended to give victims better protection.
Ministers are seeking legal powers to try out the effectiveness of polygraph testing on the highest-risk domestic abusers to see whether it reduces repeat offending or makes it more likely that they stay away from victims.
Polygraph testing was introduced for the most serious sex offenders in 2014 and has been hailed a success, with 160 offenders sent back to prison after concerns about their behaviour were highlighted by their answers.
The practice remains controversial, however. Critics question the accuracy of the results and argue that offenders can manipulate the tests, although the Ministry of Justice claims that they have an accuracy rate of 89 per cent.
Under the proposal, in a draft bill on domestic abuse published today, offenders who have been convicted and imprisoned for longer than 12 months would be subject to polygraph testing as a condition of their licence when they are released. Probation officers would submit them to tests during supervisory meetings, asking questions such as whether they had complied with orders not to contact a former partner.
The tests monitor a user’s breathing, blood pressure and heart rate, and flag up changes that coincide with particular questions. Offenders who refused a polygraph test would be subjected to stricter reporting conditions or could be returned to prison.
A similar trial was conducted with sex offenders between 2009 and 2011. It found that offenders were more likely to disclose information and the tests were made compulsory for all serious offenders on their release from prison. Abusers may also be tagged to monitor their movements under additional new powers that would allow courts to issue a domestic abuse protection order, and women and men will also no longer face cross-examination by their alleged abusers.
Charities have called on ministers to make further changes to the proposed legislation, saying that the plans overlook the needs of children whose mothers are victims. [J4MB emphasis. So the plans don’t overlook the needs of children whose FATHERS are victims?] In a joint statement the heads of Action for Children and Barnardo’s called for children to be treated as victims rather than witnesses of domestic abuse. They said that living in a household where abuse occurred was traumatic and could lead children to become involved in abusive relationships themselves.
Almudena Lara, head of policy at the NSPCC, said: “The Domestic Abuse Bill must include specific provisions to protect children and recognise that they are also the victims of these terrible crimes. With up to a quarter of a million children living with domestic abuse in England alone, we urge the government not to ignore this crucial chance to give them an extra layer of protection in law.”
David Gauke, the justice secretary, said: “Domestic abuse destroys lives and warrants some of the strongest measures at our disposal to deter offenders and protect victims. That is why we are barring abusers from cross-examining their victims in the family courts — a practice which can cause immense distress and amount to a continuation of abuse — and giving courts greater powers, including new protection orders, to tackle this hideous crime.”
The prime minister said: “Throughout my political career I have worked to bring an end to domestic abuse and support survivors as they take the brave decision to leave their abuser and rebuild their lives.
“We know, from the harrowing experiences of victims and their families, that there is still more to do to stamp out this life-shattering crime and the Domestic Abuse Bill will lead the way in bringing about the changes we need to achieve this,” Theresa May said.
The Home Office estimates that domestic abuse cost England and Wales £66 billion in 2016-17. It is estimated that about two million adults experience domestic abuse each year, affecting almost 6 per cent of all adults.
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