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The latest version of the Domestic Abuse Bill is due to be reintroduced to Parliament, and could see abusers take lie detector tests on release from prison if they are deemed at high risk of causing harm.
The bill – due to have its first reading in the Commons on Thursday – will also consider control of a person’s finances as domestic abuse, and alleged abusers will no longer be able to cross-examine their victim in court. It was among several proposed new laws that stalled last year, following the prorogation of Parliament and the general election.
If the law passes, a 3 year pilot scheme will be carried out, which will see offenders who are deemed to be high risk take polygraph tests on release from prison. Approximately 300 offenders will take lie detector tests three months after release from prison, then every 6 months thereafter, in a bid to prevent them from reoffending. If the scheme is successful it will be rolled out nationwide.
Those who fail the test will not be returned to prison – but they may be jailed if they refuse to take the test or attempt to “trick” it, according to the Home Office. An offender may also be returned to prison if the tests show “their risk has escalated to level whereby they can no longer be safely managed in the community”.
Information gathered from failed lie-detector tests is routinely shared with the police who use it to carry out further investigations. Two women a week are killed through domestic violence. Research shows 30 per cent of women – about five million – and 16 per cent of men, 2.5million, experience domestic abuse.
Campaigners say action to help victims of domestic abuse in the UK each year is long overdue. Women’s Aid said this could be a “life-saving” move, but only if it was accompanied by guaranteed funding for specialist women’s services – including for “marginalised” groups in society, which it estimates will cost about £173m a year.
Others have criticised the proposals saying the Bill does not go far enough to try to help children affected by domestic abuse. Children’s charity Barnardo’s has called on the Government to ensure the Bill “explicitly recognises the impact of this crime on children”. Action for Children estimates tens of thousands of children have been at risk of domestic abuse since the general election. The charity’s director of policy and campaigns Imran Hussain said it was “vital” the Bill recognised a child as an “innocent victim and not just a witness”.
Sources: independent.co.uk, 03 March 2020, ‘Domestic abuse bill set to return to parliament’, news.sky.com, 03 March 2020, ‘Domestic abusers could be forced to take lie detector tests to monitor behaviour’.