Scores of the country’s worst sex offenders have been sent back to prison after taking lie-detector tests while on early release.
In the past year, 492 people convicted of serious sex offences such as rape and child abuse in England and Wales have been forced to take polygraph tests under the terms of their release from custody “on licence”.
New figures showed 63 of these individuals – 13 per cent – were put back behind bars after the tests showed they had breached the conditions of their release.
Officials said the tests had shown that some paedophiles who were released on licence before the end of their sentences posed an “immediate risk” to children. These individuals were then sent back to jail.
A succession of cases in recent years has shown offenders released early have offended again and the tests, introduced last year, are designed to prevent re-offending by paedophiles and other sex attackers.
In one case, a man convicted of sexual offences against a child was released into the community after a lengthy prison term. He then took a lie detector test to assess whether he had complied with the conditions of his early release – which included a ban on using the internet without approval.
The offender, who has not been named, was found to have lied during the polygraph test but the results still revealed that he had been using the internet.
When confronted with the findings and questioned again, he confessed that he had viewed indecent images of children online. Police then searched his home and found these images saved onto data storage devices hidden at the property. He was then was charged with further offences and sent back to prison.
Lyndsey Walker, a polygraph examiner, has carried out more than 60 tests under the new system, which came into operation last August. She said the test had proved to be “invaluable” in keeping the public safe.
“My polygraph sessions have frequently resulted in serious sex offenders making disclosures which have shown they either aren’t complying with the conditions of their release or that they pose an increased risk to the public,” she said. “I have seen sex offenders make admissions that prove they pose an imminent risk to children allowing authorities to take appropriate action to keep communities safe.”
Offenders who take the lie-detector tests are twice as likely to confess to breaking the conditions of their release – and therefore ending up back in prison, the MoJ said.
The MoJ said the tests are now available across the country, with a trained polygraph examiner in every region. More experienced probation officers will undergo the 12-week training programme later this year.
Offenders convicted of the most serious sex crimes must undergo a test in their first three months after being released, and then again once every six months.
Andrew Selous, the Prisons and Probation Minister, said: “Lie detector tests play a vital part in supervising high risk sex offenders. Those who cannot comply with their licence conditions are being returned to prison which shows the success of the tests and helps us to keep the public safer.”
Last month, the National Crime Agency warned there could be as many as 750,000 men in Britain who have a sexual interest in children and police are now recording 85 new offences every day.
Under changes designed to reduce the prison population more than a decade ago, offenders serving jail terms of fixed lengths can be released after doing half their time.
They are released “on licence” – which means they are subject to certain conditions, which could include living at an approved address, not using the internet without approval, and not having unsupervised access to children.