Criminals get away with murder – literally! The reason is that the police cannot find out the truth, prosecutors cannot establish the truth, and juries cannot work out the truth.
Murderers are not the only ones that get away with it in the criminal justice system – so do muggers, burglars, fraudsters, thieves, rapists, robbers, assailants, and others – all for the same reason that the truth can’t be established.
So what is to be done apart from trying harder? Well, we need to introduce ‘lie detecting’ techniques into the criminal justice system. Lie detection relies on questioning techniques together with a machine that records physiological functions to determine truth and lies in people’s responses.
The machine we most hear about is the lie detector commonly known as the Polygraph. Let’s be clear from the outset it is not a foolproof system and it has been viewed as unreliable because the physical parameters measured to detect lying (activities of the body not easily controlled by the mind) can be influenced by other things such fear, anger, and surprise. However, it has been extensively used in law enforcement agencies in the USA, where in a lot of states it has been allowed in court trial testimony for the past half a dozen years; it is also widely used in supervision after conviction. In America no defendant or witness can be forced to undergo the polygraph test.
Currently, the polygraph is not used in our criminal courts BUT mandatory polygraph testing for sex offenders has been successfully trial’d and is now set to be rolled out across the country. However, this needs to be only the start.
What we really require to redress the balance with the escape from justice by too many of our criminal fraternity is mandatory polygraph testing of suspects, in the same way that police questioning is mandatory (and similar safeguards would be in force for the polygraph). The polygraph should be used in police questioning to gather evidence and leads, even if polygraph evidence is not submitted to the court. The evidence from the polygraph if submitted to a court should be treated and scrutinised by juries in exactly the same way as all other evidence in a trial. After all, juries know that not all witnesses are 100% reliable, and not all forensic evidence is 100% reliable, and they weigh up the value they place on all evidence. With polygraph evidence the jury would simply make the judgement of how much credence to give it.
Though true (pun intended) that the polygraph can be fooled by some criminals it cannot be cheated by ALL! There is no value of waiting until a ‘perfect’ lie detecting system has been invented – use what we have got, it is better than nothing: the polygraph.
If you agree tell your MP and David Cameron