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I welcome the piloting of polygraph testing, but I have a slight concern about the practicality of how the testing will work. I tabled a question to the Home Office some months ago, asking how many of the people on the sex offenders register who were registered with the police had gone missing, whereabouts unknown. The answer was very disturbing, and I know that the Minister was concerned about the reply that he had to give me. It was that the information is not held centrally. If we do not know where all the people on the sex offenders register are, how is the polygraph system going to work? Perhaps he can clarify whether we now have a central database. I have to ask whether his trips
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round the world researching Megan’s law and so on will have been worth while if we are incapable of knowing where all these people are.

My other concern has been raised by several senior policemen in my constituency, not least those who specialise in this subject. It concerns the ability of a paedophile who has been released from prison and placed on the sex offenders register to change his name by deed poll. This relates to our ability to contact these people and to get them to come in for a polygraph test. Surely we must be able to pass legislation to prevent paedophiles from changing their names. This is a matter of great concern. We all know that paedophiles do not think that they are doing anything wrong; they think that the standards and codes of the general public are wrong, and that what they are doing is perfectly acceptable. If they can change their names by deed poll—a practice that is becoming more and more common—how are we going to track them down to give them a polygraph test?

With that last point in mind—I will not delay the House any more, because this is an important debate—if paedophiles do not believe that they are doing anything wrong, will the polygraph test indicate that they are telling an untruth or lying? If they intrinsically believe that what they are doing is legitimate and right, the questioning in the polygraph test has to be very careful; otherwise, we will just get false readings.

Mr. Sutcliffe: I thank the contributors to this debate, which is on an important subject that we spent some time discussing in Committee. I am grateful for the contributions by the hon. Member for Hornchurch (James Brokenshire), my hon. Friend the Member for Walthamstow (Mr. Gerrard) and the hon. Members for Somerton and Frome (Mr. Heath) and for Hemel Hempstead (Mike Penning). I acknowledge the points made by the hon. Member for Somerton and Frome about the hon. Member for Cheadle (Mark Hunter), who contributed a great deal to the debates in Committee.

My hon. Friend the Member for Walthamstow is quite right. It was he who raised the issue in Committee. I am pleased to see that we are getting off on a good footing together in trying to find our way through many of the issues. The Bill is about reducing reoffending and trying to find the right way forward in terms of reducing criminality and the impact that that has on our communities. The hon. Member for Hornchurch was entirely right to raise the issue of the wider consequences and context of polygraph testing in relation to child sex offenders. In terms of risk assessment, it is a tool to prevent further offences. I am pleased that the House has accepted that we want to move forward cautiously, reflecting the issues that have been raised.

The hon. Gentleman said that we need to look at the issue of the 80:20 split. That is a figure from the National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children, which says that 80 per cent. of offenders are known to the child—they are either members of the family or people with responsibility for the individual. However, the remaining 20 per cent. are important. I thought that the hon. Member for Hemel Hempstead was straying towards supporting the Government’s
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ideas on identity cards in terms of knowing who offenders are. I felt the warmth of support for that idea.

Mike Penning: The Minister is straying off the point.

Mr. Sutcliffe: I take the point that the hon. Gentleman makes, but it is important that we look at the context.

Mention has been made of the charities that are involved, such as Barnardo’s and the NSPCC. I have been heartened by the work of Circles of Support, which is a body that mentors sex offenders. In the support that it offers to sex offenders, it has been good at making sure that the reoffending rate is minimal. It heartens me to hear hon. Members talking about the impact of the voluntary sector in managing offenders. We will come on to amendments that relate to some of those issues later.

A number of questions were put to me and I will do my best to answer them. The hon. Member for Somerton and Frome said that the measure was a manifesto commitment, which it was, and asked why it had had to be dealt with in changes to this Bill. He knows that the measure was in the previous Bill—the Management of Offenders and Sentencing Bill—but there were concerns about the direction, the detail and the technicalities. This has been the first available Bill to address the issue. This is a useful tool and it is important that we take the earliest opportunity to include it in legislation.

The hon. Member for Hornchurch asked me about the safeguards that need to be in place. I wholeheartedly agree with what he said and that is why I was cautious in my opening remarks in relation to making sure that we have a scientific study running alongside the three pilots to ensure that we have the right control group and that we can make effective comparisons between polygraphed and non-polygraphed offenders so that we get the right balance of information. The research study will need to determine whether the disclosures made to examiners are directly attributable to the polygraph tests. That is where the issue of training—and who carries out the tests—is important. I am happy to keep all hon. Members informed about the progress that we are making on those issues.

The hon. Gentleman also said that the pilot covered offenders who wanted to take part in the polygraph test and asked how we would deal with those who did not want to take part. Clearly, if we have a mandatory pilot, taking part will be a condition of the offender’s licence and if they fail to comply with the testing, enforcement action, such as recalling them to prison, could be considered. We hope that the measures will mean that there will be effective use of polygraph testing.

The hon. Member for Hemel Hempstead raised the major issue of what to do about sex offenders who go missing. I can reassure him that if they change their names, they still have to inform people about that change of name and they still go on the list.

Mike Penning: If someone changes their name because they want to hide their identity, they are then the missing person on the list. That is what I was referring to earlier.

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Mr. Sutcliffe: That leads me on to the issue that the hon. Member for Hornchurch raised about what we are doing to stop people giving addresses such as “in the woods”. Although I have some concerns about “in the woods” being an address, the reason why that was done was that offenders had to tell people where they were and to say “no fixed abode” was not appropriate either. To make sure that people comply, in addition to what everybody accepts as the proper arrangements—involving the multi-agency public protection bodies that deal with high-risk offenders—we will also make it a requirement that the offenders have to report regularly to a police station. We will bring legislation forward to do that. This point relates to the question of why we have no central records. The issue is about the MAPPA—multi-agency public protection arrangements—authorities, of which there are 42, making sure that they know where their sex offenders are and the interfaces that take place when people move around. The big issue is about denial and the way in which child sex offenders operate.

James Brokenshire: The Minister has just indicated that he is minded to consider a requirement on offenders to report to a police station, but does that not underscore the problem that there needs to be some form of residence or abode? If someone does not report to the police station, that may be because they have disappeared. That is the issue that we seek to address in terms of tracking and ensuring that we know where the offender is so that the appropriate management, supervision and possibly treatment can be put in place and adhered to. Does he accept that if he were just to go down the police reporting route, that loophole would still remain?

Mr. Sutcliffe: I do—if that were the only condition or the only requirement. The hon. Gentleman touches on a point that we will come to: offenders who come out of prison are sometimes homeless and do not have an address. There is a requirement for the authorities to know where the people on the register are. One of the issues that we will face when we discuss the wider context of how to manage offenders is that of approved premises and resettlement plans. What do we do to try to reintegrate people into society? The onus is on the offender to report back, but there are circumstances in which the offender does not have an address to report from.

The Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department, my hon. Friend the Member for Gedling (Mr. Coaker), reminded me that we have the sexual violence and abuse stakeholder group, where representative bodies and individuals who have been affected by sexual violence or abuse have the opportunity to explain the impact of what has taken place. The idea is that, in the not-too-distant future, we will come up with a whole set of issue action plans that will help to give a better view about the impact, facilitating liaison with the sector about the issues that people face. I accept that sometimes the impact can be felt in later life.

I was asked whether prisoners will be released early, and I am happy to say no. Polygraph testing will apply after release and will not be a factor in deciding
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whether to release someone. I was also asked why we are confining polygraph testing to offenders on licence, as opposed to all offenders under supervision. As I said, we intend to proceed cautiously with polygraphy. Initially, we intend to extend it to more serious sex offenders who have been sentenced to 12 months or more in prison, but I am not ruling out an extension to other offenders at a later stage, should the pilot indicate value. Again, that would require further legislation.

Points were made about the failures of the test, and the hon. Member for Somerton and Frome talked about ensuring that such testing was limited, rather than extended to other aspects of criminology and police investigations. Clearly, such extension is not our intention through the Bill. A debate on that might be needed at a later time, but there are no plans at the moment to include other bodies considering polygraphy in the legislation.

It will be important that we set out clearly through the Secretary of State not only guidance, but rules on how the tests are applied, who should apply them, and the training that is necessary for the people who apply them.

1.30 pm

Mr. Heath: Will the codes of conduct be laid before the House and will they have the same authority as codes such as those under the Police and Criminal Evidence Act 1984?

Mr. Sutcliffe: I hope that that will be possible. The hon. Gentleman knows that there is a qualification about such matters due to timing, but I see no reason why that should not be the case, given the close relationship. We all want the system to operate properly.

My hon. Friend the Member for Wrexham (Ian Lucas) mentioned under-18s. We want to focus on the highest risk. Although the benefits are unproven as yet, it would not be proportionate to apply the tests to juveniles. We must be careful. However, I will not rule out that happening in the light of our experiences. Unfortunately, there are child sex offenders who are under 18, and we need to find out the risk that they present to society.

I am grateful to hon. Members for their contributions. I hope that I have answered their questions and that the new clauses and amendment will be agreed to.

Question put and agreed to.

Clause read a Second time, and added to the Bill.

New Clause 9

Effect of polygraph condition

‘(1) For the purposes of section (Application of polygraph condition to certain licences), a polygraph condition is a condition which requires the released person—

(a) to participate in polygraph sessions conducted with a view to—

(i) monitoring his compliance with the other conditions of his licence; or

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(ii) improving the way in which he is managed during his release on licence;

(b) to participate in those polygraph sessions at such times as may be specified in instructions given by an appropriate officer; and

(c) while participating in a polygraph session, to comply with instructions given to him by the person conducting the session (“the polygraph operator”).

(2) A polygraph session is a session during which the polygraph operator—

(a) conducts one or more polygraph examinations of the released person; and

(b) interviews the released person in preparation for, or otherwise in connection with, any such examination.

(3) For the purposes of subsection (2), a polygraph examination is a procedure in which—

(a) the polygraph operator questions the released person;

(b) the questions and the released person’s answers are recorded; and

(c) physiological reactions of the released person while being questioned are measured and recorded by means of equipment of a type approved by the Secretary of State.

(4) In subsection (1)(b) “appropriate officer” means an officer of a provider of probation services or an officer of a local probation board.

(5) An appropriate officer giving instructions as mentioned in subsection (1)(b) must have regard to any guidance issued by the Secretary of State.

(6) The Secretary of State may make rules relating to the conduct of polygraph sessions.

(7) The rules may, in particular—

(a) require polygraph operators to be persons who satisfy such requirements as to qualifications, experience and other matters as are specified in the rules;

(b) make provision about the keeping of records of polygraph sessions; and

(c) make provision about the preparation of reports on the results of polygraph sessions.’.— [Mr. Sutcliffe.]

Brought up, read the First and Second time, and added to the Bill.

New Clause 10

Use in criminal proceedings of evidence from polygraph sessions

‘(1) Evidence of any matter mentioned in subsection (2) may not be used in any proceedings against a released person for an offence.

(2) The matters so excluded are—

(a) any statement made by the released person while participating in a polygraph session; and

(b) any physiological reactions of the released person while being questioned in the course of a polygraph examination.

(3) In this section “polygraph examination” and “polygraph session” have the same meaning as in section (Application of polygraph condition to certain licences).’.— [Mr. Sutcliffe.]

Brought up, read the First and Second time, and added to the Bill.

Clause 33


Amendment made: No. 15, page 21, line 34, at end insert—

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‘(4) An order under this section bringing anything in sections (Application of polygraph condition to certain licences) and (Effect of polygraph condition) into force, other than an order which makes the provision permitted by subsection (5)(a) or (6), may not be made unless a draft of the statutory instrument containing the order has been laid before, and approved by a resolution of, each House of Parliament.

(5) An order which brings those sections into force only in relation to a specified area may—

(a) provide that they are to be in force in relation to that area only for a specified period; and

(b) make transitional provisions or savings relating to those sections’ ceasing to be in force at the end of the specified period.

(6) An order containing the provision permitted by subsection (5)(a) may be amended by a subsequent order under this section so as to continue those sections in force in relation to the area concerned for a further specified period.’.— [Mr. Sutcliffe.]

New Clause 2

Requirement for probation trusts to prepare plans

‘(1) Each probation trust shall provide a plan for the forthcoming financial year at least four months before the commencement of that year.

(2) A plan submitted under subsection (1) shall set out for the trust—

(a) its anticipated probation services needs,

(b) from whom it proposes to commission services,

(c) the costs of those services.

(3) The Secretary of State may modify the plan.

(4) Any modifications made by the Secretary of State shall be made not later than one month before the start of the financial year covered in the plan.’.— [Mr. Garnier.]

Brought up, and read the First time.

Mr. Edward Garnier (Harborough) (Con): I beg to move, That the clause be read a Second time.

Mr. Deputy Speaker (Sir Michael Lord): With this it will be convenient to discuss the following amendments: No. 4, in clause 2, page 3, line 8, at end insert—

‘(4A) In carrying out his duty under subsection (4) the Secretary of State shall consult the Welsh Assembly Government regarding the provision of probation services in Wales.’.

No. 9, in clause 3, page 3, line 15, after ‘considers’, insert

‘, following consultation with the relevant probation trust,’.

No. 5, page 3, line 35, at end insert—

‘(4A) Before making arrangements under subsection (4) the Secretary of State must consult any probation trust or trusts providing probation services in the area to which the proposed arrangements would apply and such other persons as he thinks appropriate.’.

No. 18, in schedule 1, page 22, line 15, at end insert—

‘(c) a magistrate for the area in which the probation trust carries out its functions; and

(d) a local councillor for the area in which the probation trust carries out its functions.’.

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