Research

Protecting the Public

Protecting the Public

Trials led by internationally-respected forensic psychiatrist, Professor Donald Grubin, have helped to shape new legislation designed to protect the public against dangerous sex offenders.

Since 2001, Professor Grubin of Newcastle University’s Institute of Neuroscience, has led trials to establish whether polygraph tests could be used, by probation officers, to manage high-risk sex offenders after released from prison -  by ensuring that they stick to the conditions of their parole licence.

Polygraph Test
Photo of a Polygraph test

Trials prove potential of polygraph tests

A three-year study of mandatory assessment, which ended in 2012, demonstrated conclusively that polygraph testing helped case managers evaluate the risk posed by offenders, enabling them to decide how best to protect the public from harm.

Legislation requiring high-risk sex offenders on parole in England and Wales to undergo mandatory polygraph assessment was passed by Parliament in the summer of 2013.

Tightening up controls on offenders

The testing was described by the Government as the latest in a series of plans to tighten up controls on sex offenders, which will also see their movement tracked by satellite tags (when the technology is available).

Work led by Professor Grubin also enables libido suppressant drugs to be prescribed to further reduce the risk posed by this group of offenders.

Professor Grubin has led rigorous training to enable probation and police officers to become polygraph examiners, putting some of the most serious sex offenders in the community under stringent test. 

Gordon Davison, Head of Offender Management and Public Protection Unit, National Offender Management Service, said: "The value of polygraph testing for sexual offenders on licence has long been championed by Professor Don Grubin and research has validated its positive impact. Its use has been welcomed by probation officers and managers as another tool to assist in the safer management of high risk offenders who have been released into the community."

Police from two forces and staff from the new National Probation Service now run regular lie-detector tests on offenders and take the results into account when deciding whether or not to recall the offender to custody.

VIDEO: Protecting the public

Important tool

Professor Grubin said: “Polygraph tests can be an important tool in the management of sex offenders and can enhance provisions already in place.

Previous studies have shown that polygraph testing both facilitates the disclosure of information and alerts offender managers to possible deception, allowing them to work with offenders in a more focused way.”

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Contact Information

Professor Don Grubin
Email: don.grubin@ncl.ac.uk
Telephone: +44 (0) 191 223 2454