High-risk offenders face regular lie-detector tests under an overhaul of probation to be launched on Monday.
Convicted sex offenders, domestic abusers and terrorists will face lie-detector tests at least every six months – and more regularly if they fail the tests or probation officers suspect they may be breaching their licence conditions.
It forms part of a new set of rules for probation officers set out as part of the re-nationalisation of the probation service after its disastrous part-privatisation put public safety at risk with its failure to properly supervise criminals and with a rise in reoffending rates.
Probation officers will no longer be allowed to check on offenders by phone but will be required to visit them face-to-face at least once a month, and every week for cases judged to be of “high or very high risk of serious harm”.
The officers will also be advised to make greater use of electronic tagging to protect the public and investigate offenders because of the insights it can provide “into their lifestyle, movements, associates and interests”.
The crackdown is set out in a document entitled “National Standards 2021” drawn up for the unified probation system that brings back under state control the management of thousands of offenders that was previously contracted out to community rehabilitation companies.
Robert Buckland, the Justice Secretary, said: “The work probation does to protect the public from harm and rehabilitate offenders is too often overlooked but it is vitally important given 80 per cent of crime is reoffending.
“The Government is backing the new Probation Service with more money and more staff so that the public is better protected, crime is cut and fewer people become victims.”
Domestic abusers convicted of murder, violence or breaches of restraining orders, sex offenders and terrorists will face lie-detectors within three months of release, then every six months, according to the new rules. Any breach or failed test could lead to monthly lie-detection tests.
Probation officers are advised offenders can be recalled to jail if, under questioning, they admit a breach of their licence or if they try to trick the lie-detection technology or refuse to submit to it.
“Examinations can indicate when an individual is attempting to be deceptive, aid risk related disclosures and motivate honesty and compliance,” say the rules.
The Ministry of Justice said that two thirds of the 5,000 tests with sex offenders to date had resulted in “significant disclosures”. Officials claimed they were 80 to 90 per cent accurate.
Under the privatised probation service, tens of thousands of offenders – up to 40 per cent of the total – were supervised by telephone calls every six weeks instead of face-to-face meetings, according to inspectors.
The new rules stipulate “face to face contacts should be a minimum of every four weeks. For cases assessed as presenting high or very high risk of serious harm, weekly contact should be maintained other than in exceptional circumstances.”
Under a major expansion of electronic tagging, violent gang members, stalkers and domestic abusers will be among up to 4,000 criminals a year to be tracked 24/7 by satellite.
Courts and police will use the electronic tags to create “exclusion zones” to bar gang members from their former territories, and keep stalkers and domestic abusers away from their victims.
In the new rules, probation officers are told that should last a minimum of 12 months. “It provides valuable data about where they spend their time when not at an approved premise or in contact with professionals,” they say.
It also provides officers with evidence on movements and compliance and can “alert us to potential breaches of licence such as a breach of curfew or an exclusion zones and to locate an individual should we have immediate concerns about their behaviour”.
Under the renationalisation more than £300 million worth of extra funding has been pumped into the service since July 2019 with recruitment of probation offices increased from the normal annual intake of 600 trainees to 1,000 last year and 1,500 in this financial year.