Examination of Witnesses

Part of Counter-Terrorism and Sentencing Bill – in a Public Bill Committee at 2:30 pm on 25th June 2020.

Alert me about debates like this

Les Allamby:

It gives me, I have to say, a rather limited measure of reassurance. I say that because it seems to me that if that is the case, then frankly that ought to be written into the Bill. It ought to be clear that the outcome of a polygraph test on its own should not have any adverse impact.

If you are going to introduce polygraph tests, you really should pilot them. I will quickly give you an example. It may seem a slightly odd analogy, but I used to sit on the Social Security Advisory Committee, and I remember being told many years ago by the Department for Work and Pensions that it was looking at voice recognition, as a way of starting to tell whether somebody might be telling the truth or not. Great play was made about that approach as a possible way forward in fraud detection, etc. It unravelled as the evidence became clearer that there were significant flaws in using that technology for making assumptions about whether individuals were telling the truth.

I cannot draw any objective scientific comparison between voice recognition and polygraphs, but it is a cautionary tale of rushing into using technology without piloting it and really considering what other safeguards you should have before using it.