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Police use of eye detector tests will be a global first.

Byline: Simon Meechan Reporter simon.meechan@trinitymirror.com

NORTH East police will be the first in the world to use eye detection to manage sex offenders after they secured a grant to try out the technology.

The Home Office has awarded Northumbria Police PS171,510 through the Police Innovation Fund.

The cash will be used to try two different lie detecting methods to be used across the Durham and Northumbria force areas.

One, traditional polygraph testing, is already used by four police forces in Britain, but eye detection has yet to be adopted by any police worldwide, according to Prof Don Grubin from Newcastle University, whose team is working on the project.

Prof Grubin, from the university's Institute of Neuroscience, said: "We are not clear yet on whether it will work or not.

"Part of the idea is testing it to see if it does and how useful it can be."

In eye detection tests, offenders will be asked to read phrases on a computer screen and the scanner will track their pupil movements and dilations. The computer then works out if they are being deceptive.

Polygraph testing uses sensors to measure breathing rates, pulse and blood pressure when a question is posed.

The idea, Prof Grubin says, is to test both technologies on sex offenders to see if the results match up. Eye detection is the quicker and cheaper method but does not allow for continuous interview-style questioning like a polygraph test. If both tests find the same offenders to be high risk or low risk then eye detection can be trusted.

Eye detection tests can be taken by multiple people at once but officers can only test one at a time using polygraph machines. The team hopes to find the most efficient way to structure eye detector questions and eliminate as many people from expensive further testing as possible.

Prof Grubin said: "We're then left with small group of high-risk individuals who we engage in polygraph testing."

According to Prof Grubin, staff can be taught to use eye scanners in an afternoon, but it can take up to 10 weeks to train officers to use polygraph machines.

US border control authorities have used eye detection to screen recruits for histories of drug use and dealing. The technology has never been used in Britain and the experiment will be the first time any police force in the world has tried eye detection to manage criminals.

Prof Grubin says two thirds of polygraph tests result in police getting information and intelligence which they did not have before.

The early signs are that eye detection is accurate but the police and Prof Grubin's team will thoroughly test it out, which is why the Home Office has awarded the innovation grant.

Prof Grubin said: "It's to research new technology. There's limited evidence, but what evidence we have at the moment suggests an 80-90% accuracy, which is the same level of accuracy as polygraph testing."

North East police forces could be using eye detection and polygraph testing by the autumn.

The funding was awarded jointly to Northumbria Police and Durham Constabulary, but Northumbria will lead the project.

Northumbria Police and Crime Commissioner Vera Baird said: "Northumbria Police has been working incredibly hard with proactive investigations and encouraging victims, including those of historic offences, to come forward. I am therefore delighted to have secured funding which will allow us to use this advanced technology to help protect some of the most vulnerable in our communities.

"As demand increases there is a clear need to ensure robust risk management of alleged sexual offenders is in place and this new testing process will help us do just that.

"Introducing eye detection testing will be a first for the UK and is one of many innovative ways in which we are seeking to provide better protection for the people of the Northumbria Police region."

Detective Chief Insp Jackie Coleman of Northumbria Police said: "This is great news for Northumbria and we are thankful to Commissioner Baird for supporting us in securing this funding so we can make a real difference in protecting the public we serve. It will help officers ensure more accurate risk management of suspected and convicted sex offenders, which will help inform our safeguarding. It is expected this will lead to the prevention of offences as well as efficiency savings."

Durham Police and Crime Commissioner Ron Hogg said: "This is another example of how modern technology can really help to identify offenders. I strongly encourage victims of sexual offences to report what has happened to the police, and I can assure them that they will be taken seriously."

CAPTION(S):

Polygraph tests will be used in conjunction with eye detection by the Northumbria and Durham forces Philip Coburn

Prof Don Grubin says the use of the system when interviewing sex offenders will provide valuable data Philip Coburn
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Publication:The Journal (Newcastle, England)
Geographic Code:4EUUK
Date:Apr 8, 2016
Words:813
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