Polygraph tests can be highly reliable, says criminology practitioner

  • Nation
  • Saturday, 18 Jan 2020

PETALING JAYA: Criminology practitioner Datuk Sri Akhbar Satar has hit out at armchair academicians who cast aspersions on polygraph tests, saying the method could help rule out suspects, including perverts.

He said it was unfair and unbecoming of academics to make comments without carrying out an in-depth analysis into the subject matter.

"Some may possibly issue statements based on unverified information widely available in cyberspace.

"They may never have experienced sitting for polygraph tests, and worst still, they may never have seen polygraph instruments. But they act as if they know it all," he said.

Akhbar said polygraph tests could be highly reliable when carried out properly by a certified polygraph examiner, especially those who were full members of the American Polygraph Association.

He said that this could come in handy in cases involving sexual harassment and other offences that could not be corroborated with physical evidence.

"But the procedure must be right, and done with the consent of the complainant or suspect.

"It must be carried out in a sound-proof room, with the subject seated on a special chair. Apart from using the latest techniques, it is crucial to set the right question construction.

"Only the examiner and the one taking the polygraph test should be in the room to avoid disturbance and loss of focus.

"The examiner can easily verify the difference between nervousness and lying patterns.

"The examiner should also be neutral, and therefore the investigation officer for a particular case cannot act as the examiner," he said.

Akhbar said proper procedures must be observed to check for flaws.

Whether or not a person was lying or telling the truth could be ascertained by looking at the graphs and carrying out diagnostic analysis.

"The polygraph is not the lie detector. The examiner is the lie detector," he said.

In Taiwan, a judge would subject an accused to a polygraph test prior to sentencing. If the accused failed the test, a higher sentence would likely be meted out, he added.

"A polygraph test is 100% accepted in Japanese and Mexican courts. Likewise, why not let the judges here decide if the polygraph test results could be tendered as part of evidence? It's better than nothing," he said.

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