Lie detector tests for terrorist offenders may become compulsory in sweeping changes proposed by the UK Government.

The polygraph has been used in UK law enforcement since 2014 mainly for the monitoring of certain types of sex offenders when they are released from prison on probation.  Its use is to be extended to domestic abusers out on licence this year.

Counter Terrorism (Sentencing and Release) Bill 2019 – 2020

First mentioned in the Queen’s Speech of December 2019, this Bill is mainly intended to:

  • Impose sentences on terrorists commensurate with the severity of their crimes and the risks they present to the general public. Currently the minimum term is 3 year.  It is proposed this should increase to 14 years.
  • Ensure that the time served in prison by serious terrorists is longer before they can be considered for probation. Currently it is usual for them to serve 50 percent. The Home Office recommends two thirds should be served for the least dangerous and full term for those deemed to be serious.
  • Improve monitoring of terrorists released on licence

Between September 2018 and 2019 there were 44 convictions for offences related to terrorism. Of these, 17 received custodial sentence of between 4 to 10 years.  5 were incarcerated for 10 years or more and one for life.

The full scope of the Bill can be studied by clicking here

Lie detector tests for terrorist offenders

The likelihood is that compulsory polygraph tests will be imposed as a condition of terrorists being released. Whilst out on licence they may be monitored by the tests in much the same way as serious sex offenders are currently.

The Bill was introduced after Usman Khan, a convicted terrorist attending an offender rehabilitation programme, went berserk on London Bridge last year.  Of the five people he attacked, two lost their lives before he was shot by police.

Risk assessment

Announced by the MoJ (Ministry of Justice) and the Home Office, these measures will be welcomed by many.  After almost every terrorist attack it has been reported that the offender was “known to the police” or “known to intelligence services”.  The polygraph is an excellent risk assessment tool for managing and monitoring offenders.

Robert Buckland, Lord Chancellor and Secretary of State for Justice, in several media interviews this morning stressed that lie detector tests for terrorist offenders will not be used in the criminal investigation process.  They will be used in assessing the risk of convicted terrorists on licence, as well as for monitoring them.

As American Poygraph Association (APA) accredited polygraph examiners welcome any move, to enhance the safety of the general public.