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The Evidence For and Against Polygraph Testing of Sex Offenders

Proponents of post conviction polygraph testing of sex offenders argue that it provides information that would otherwise be unavailable to supervisors and to treatment providers. Opponents are concerned, however, about the risk of a detrimental impact on the relationship between offender and therapist, an over-reliance on the technique leading mistakes in risk assessment , and cost. Even if it does increase disclosures, does it add anything to treatment and supervision? This workshop will look in detail at the issues and evidence covered in my plenary session on polygraph testing (including the in depth studies carried out in England), but will also explore other areas such as the nature of lying, the way in which ‘lie detectors’ might work, and the ethics of this type of intervention. The aim is for workshop attendees to gain enough knowledge about polygraph testing to reach their own conclusions on whether it has a useful role in the treatment and management of sex offenders.


Don Grubin is Professor of Forensic Psychiatry, Newcastle University and (Hon) Consultant Forensic Psychiatrist, Northumberland, Tyne & Wear NHS Trust. He is originally from the United States, but came to England to study at the age of 20 and have been there since. He trained at the Institute of Psychiatry, and the Maudsley and Broadmoor Hospitals. He is the Project Director of the Sexual Behaviour Unit in Newcastle, and psychiatric advisor to the English National Offender Management Service sex offender programmes. He is also a member of the Ministry of Justice Correctional Services Accreditation Panel, and sits on the Boards of the Home Office Independent Safeguarding Authority. His research interests include health screening in custody and in prisons, fitness to plead, polygraphy, and all aspects of sexual offending. Since the early 2000’s he has been leading the evaluated implementation of polygraph testing of sex offenders on probation and parole.