RCMP defends polygraph as 'investigative tool' that can rule out suspects

Legal aid official warns against lie detector tests


The director of Nunavut's legal aid clinic is warning people in trouble with the law not to submit to lie detector tests administered by the RCMP.

Chris Debicki, director of Maliiganik Tukisiiniakvik, said two Nunavummiut were recently asked by police to come to Iqaluit and submit to lie detector tests, also known as polygraphs.

Debicki said they were asked to participate in a polygraph test and flown to Iqaluit before being charged with any crime.

"The RCMP stand in a position of trust and authority," Debicki wrote in an email to Nunatsiaq News. "It is not proper for them to ask unrepresented citizens to ‘volunteer' to travel to Iqaluit and then submit to a test that courts have dismissed as unhelpful because of its tendency to give false readings."

Debicki said the clinic advises that people refuse police requests to take a lie detector test.

RCMP Sgt. Mike Toohey said Mounties use polygraph tests as an "investigative tool" that can help them uncover new elements of a case and even rule out suspects.

"It's a technique that's used all over the world by other police officers, by police agencies that helps advance an investigation," he said.

Toohey said the Mounties don't have a trained officer on staff to administer the tests. Instead, the RCMP brings up southern experts to conduct polygraphs as needed. Toohey couldn't say how often that happens.

The accuracy of polygraphs is widely disputed by scientists and results aren't typically admissible in Canadian courts.

A 1987 Supreme Court of Canada ruling stated evidence from polygraphs "should not be admitted by reason of ‘human fallibility in assessing the proper weight to be given to evidence cloaked under the mystique of science.'"

But in a judgment last year the court said "these concerns do not preclude police officers from administering polygraph tests as an investigative tool."

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