Sex offenders in Northern Ireland due to be released from jail should be subject to compulsory lie detector tests, a leading children’s charity said yesterday.
The comments came as it emerged that sex offenders in some parts of England and Wales could be forced to undergo polygraph tests to see if they are a danger to the public.
The Ministry of Justice has said a pilot scheme would test the use of polygraphs for offenders living in the community. An earlier voluntary pilot found that nearly 80% of lie detector tests prompted admissions from offenders.
The pilot scheme plan has been welcomed by Barnardo’s, and a spokeswoman from the charity called for such measures to be extended throughout the UK.
The issue of the rehabilitation of sex offenders has hit the headlines recently with the case of Ken Callaghan — who is fighting to permanently stop the media from publishing his photograph.
The Sunday Life, the sister paper of the Belfast Telegraph, is fighting for the right to print photographs of Ken Callaghan — who battered and raped a woman in her own home in 1987 — on the basis that the public should be made aware of what he looks like.
It argued that it wants to take steps to help protect the public from dangerous offenders.
Confidence in monitoring sex offenders was rocked when it emerged that Trevor Hamilton murdered pensioner Attracta Harron even though he had recently been released from prison after serving half of a seven-year sentence for rape and was being monitored by authorities at the time.
Barnardo’s has been calling for polygraphs to be used on sex offenders since 2006. They welcome the Ministry of Justice decision to implement the pilot scheme.
Martin Narey, chief executive of Barnardo’s , said: “This has the potential significantly to increase public confidence that sex offenders are complying with supervision, that they are staying away from schools and playgrounds and living and sleeping where they are supposed to. Sex offenders trying to avoid re-offending will be helped by the knowledge that polygraph testing will expose any attempt by them to mislead their probation officer.”
A spokeswoman from the charity added: “This is something that we, as an organisation, believe works and we have called upon the Government to use polygraph testing for several years. This can be a really effective way to protect children.”
The locations for the three-year-pilot, which will begin in April 2009, have not yet been formally chosen, but a spokesman said they were likely to be in the east of England and West Midlands.
If successful, the scheme could be extended across the country.