Kent Lie detector test used in domestic abuse cases

A Kent lie detector has recently helped police in domestic abuse cases. A new study reveals how technology is being utilised by abusers.

The technology

Digital technologies are increasingly becoming the latest tool used by domestic abuse offenders. The finding comes as researchers from the Universities of Kent and Portsmouth found an increasing number of cases and reports of technology-facilitated domestic abuse (TFDA).

Dr Jason Nurse, associate professor in cyber security at the University of Kent, together with Dr Lisa Sugiura, senior lecturer in criminology and cybercrime at the University of Portsmouth, identified a range of abusive behaviours.

Abusive behaviours

These incorporate offences under the 1990 Computer Misuse Act (CMA) and digital tools. Firstly abusers use spyware to access victims’ accounts and to monitor their movements. Secondly, abusers create fake accounts to abuse and harass partners or ex-partners. Finally, abusers are impersonating victims online in a derogatory manner.

Other cases include stalking and monitoring victims through smart devices, home appliances and social media.  Abusers are also gaining access to emails and social media accounts without the authorisation.

Perpetrators could also threaten to release intimate pictures or videos of their (ex)partners to friends and family or online. This act has the title of  ‘revenge porn’.

The abusers

Dr Nurse said: “Perpetrators are adept at adjusting to new technology and exploiting legitimate tools. Smart devices such as Alexa, Nest and Hive (smart heating systems), Ring doorbell and cameras, are also key technologies in domestic abuse.”

He went on to say that he was in shock at how easy it is to find products online made for monitoring partners. These products range from teddy bears with covert cameras to car trackers.

The report’s lead author, Dr Lisa Sugiura, said: “With the increased use and development of technology, perpetrators of domestic abuse are progressively using CMA offences and digital tools to monitor, threaten and humiliate their victims.

Harmful and serious

“Technical skills are not necessary to perpetuate most forms of technological abuse. Many of the tools used are everyday technologies, readily available, accessible, and familiar. Apps are affordable and easy to use.”

Both professors explained that technology is a facilitator to online abuse, which is a coercive and controlling behaviour that can be a strand of a pre-existing pattern of domestic abuse.

They added that despite no physical abuse, harmful behaviour instigated by technology is in no way less serious.

Child abuse cases

The report also found that children are increasingly being involved in TFDA cases, especially in divorce or shared custody scenarios, by being used to facilitate abuse between their parents.

These include exploiting the child’s devices, such as tablets, phones and game consoles, to monitor and maintain control over victims.

Ruth Davison, from domestic violence charity Refuge, said: “The rise of tech and smart products and the way in which they are being used by perpetrators is a major concern for Refuge.”

“Whilst technology is a huge part of our lives, for women experiencing domestic abuse it is an ever-growing tool used to create fear, harass, intimidate and control them.

Advice for victims

To help and guide domestic abuse victims, the report listed a series of recommendations to tackle TFDA.

These include: changing all passwords when a relationship ends, and avoid any combination an intimate or ex-partner might guess; checking any devices with internet connectivity for spyware trackers pre-installed; look out for hidden cameras, GPS trackers or microphones in any gifts, toys and other seemingly innocent items coming from an ex-partner.

And victims should also check the privacy and use of facial images and email addresses on social media accounts.

Support for victims

Researchers also advised that policy, legislative and support responses consider these rapidly developing practices of abuse.

They ask for the role of technology in domestic abuse to be part of the Domestic Abuse Bill. Researchers also asked for training police to identify potential criminal offences.

Project leaders urged tech companies to do more to prevent the creation of fake accounts. They wanted social media companies to remove those who repeatedly do so. They say online retailers need to stop the sale of spy kits and technologies.

Maggie Oliver and polygraph testing

Lie Detector Test UK are proud sponsors of the Maggie Oliver Foundation. She set up the trust to help support victims of sex abuse. Maggie Oliver is best known as the Detective-turned- whistleblower who resigned from Greater Manchester Police in late 2012. Maggie wanted resigned to expose the now infamous Rochdale Grooming Scandal.

Thanks to charities like Maggie’s, polygraph testing is now being used by police for interrogating sex abusers. It is also part of abuser’s release terms ensuring the safety of our communities.

If you suspect someone is a victim of sex abuse then why not book your test online today. You can also call us on our free helpline on 07572 748364.