Polygraph testing, also known as lie detector testing, is a practice that has been utilized for decades in the United States to aid in criminal investigations and court proceedings. While not yet widely accepted in the UK legal system, polygraph testing is still recognized as a valuable tool by many organizations and is being considered for expansion in various fields.

Current Status in the UK

Despite its wide use in the US, polygraph testing is not currently recognized by UK courts as admissible evidence. However, its use is not without merit in the UK legal system. In England and Wales, serious sex offenders on parole have been given the option of taking a polygraph test since 2007. The probation service was also granted permission in 2014 to impose mandatory polygraph examinations as part of the release conditions of sex offenders.

The probation service’s use of polygraph tests has been met with success, as the Ministry of Justice reported in 2018 that 166 sex offenders had been returned to prison since the introduction of polygraph examinations. Furthermore, mandatory polygraph examinations are currently being considered as part of the Domestic Abuse Bill for the release of domestic abuse offenders in England and Wales.

Benefits of Polygraph Testing

Polygraph testing has the potential to be a valuable tool for law enforcement, as it can aid in the investigation of criminal activity and help identify perpetrators. Polygraph tests are also used in the corporate world to assist in the screening of potential employees and determine the honesty of current employees in cases of theft or information breaches.

Polygraph testing can also be used in employment tribunals to settle disputes. While it is ultimately up to the presiding judge to decide whether to admit polygraph evidence in a tribunal, its use has been successful in resolving disputes at earlier stages of employment disputes.

Future Prospects

The National Police Chief’s Council is currently exploring the benefits of polygraph testing in policing and whether its use can be expanded. Seven police forces in England and Wales already utilize polygraph tests on a voluntary basis for existing and suspected sex offenders. As more organizations recognize the value of polygraph testing, it may become more widely accepted in the UK legal system in the future.


While polygraph testing is not yet widely recognized in the UK legal system, its value is recognized by many organizations and it has been successfully used in various fields, including law enforcement and employment disputes. With its potential benefits for identifying perpetrators and resolving disputes, it is likely that polygraph testing will become more widely accepted in the UK in the coming years.