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Polygraph and eye testing

Eye detection and polygraph testing used to manage sex offenders

Published on: 12 April 2016

Experts at Newcastle University are working with police to assess the techniques of eye detection and polygraph testing to manage sex offenders.

Northumbria Police will be the first in the world to use eye detection to deal with sex offenders after securing a grant to implement polygraph and eye detection testing pre and post-conviction.

Newcastle University Emeritus Professor Don Grubin and his team are working on the project.

Professor Grubin said: “We are not yet clear on whether it will work or not. Part of the idea is testing it to see if it does and how useful it can be.

“By being able to screen a larger number of individuals at one time, if the technology proves successful then it could enable polygraph testing to be focused on those cases where it has most potential relevance."

Tests assess if sex offenders are lying

In eye detection tests, offenders will be asked to read phrases on a computer screen and the scanner will track their pupil movements and dilations. The computer then works out if they are lying.

Polygraph testing use sensors to measure breathing rates, pulse and blood pressure when a question is posed. It is already used by four police forces in Britain, however eye detection has yet to be adopted by any police organisation in the world. The idea is to test both technologies on sex offenders to see if the results match up.

Northumbria Police and Crime Commissioner Vera Baird has now received Home Office confirmation that they have secured £171,510 to implement the testing techniques.

The funding has been made possible through a collaborative bid between Northumbria Police and Durham Constabulary to the Police Innovation Fund 2016/17.  Northumbria Police will lead the project.

Technology will protect most vulnerable

Ms Baird said: "Northumbria Police has been working incredibly hard with proactive investigations and encouraging victims, including those of historic offences, to come forward.

“I am therefore delighted to have secured funding which will allow us to use this advanced technology to help protect some of the most vulnerable in our communities.

"As demand increases there is a clear need to ensure robust risk management of alleged sexual offenders is in place and this new testing process will help us do just that.

“Introducing eye detection testing will be a first for the UK and we look forward to rolling out detail of this pioneering way of managing offenders in the very near future - one of many innovative ways in which we are seeking to provide better protection for the people of Northumbria."

Early signs indicate that eye detection is accurate, however the police and Prof Grubin’s team will test it out thoroughly.

Prof Grubin said: “The funding is to research new technology. At present, there’s limited evidence, but what evidence we do have suggests an 80-90% accuracy rate, which is the same level of accuracy as polygraph testing.”

Durham Police and Crime Commissioner, Ron Hogg, said: “This is another example of how modern technology can really help to identify offenders and resolve crimes. I strongly encourage victims of sexual offences to report what has happened to the Police, and I can assure them that they will be taken seriously."


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