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Incident Related Polygraphs

The services of a polygraph examiner are usually engaged when a criminal act has been discovered and a number of individuals are regarded as possible perpetrators.

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An employer, or accountable person will be faced with a dilemma of needing to expose the guilty party, without unduly affecting innocent parties, as timeously as possible.

The polygraph test, therefore, serves to highlight both the innocence of the “not guilty”, and the guilt of the perpetrators. The process is also efficient in so far as time lines are concerned and can sometimes obviate the necessity for lengthy, expensive and time consuming investigative processes.

It is essential, at the outset, that the polygraphist is briefed with regards to the circumstances and issues under investigation.

No one is legally obliged to undergo a polygraph examination, although it must be stated that failure to take a test, can (rightly or wrongly) arouse the suspicion of an employer or investigator.. Before taking a polygraph test, it should therefore be carefully explained to the subject that his/her participation in the process is voluntary.

In the pre-polygraph interview, it should also be explained what the process entails and the purpose of the test. The subject should be clearly in the picture as to what the issues are.

Once this line of communication has been established between the polygraph examiner and the subject, (with the aid of an interpreter, if required) the examination gets under way.

Normally a few background questions are asked, before reverting to specific questioning related to the issue at hand.

Once the test is completed, the subject may, or may not be privy to the result. The polygraphist’s client may wish to collate the results of all the candidates before taking the next step, or he may wish to take each polygraph on its own merits. This course of action can sometimes encourage a subject to confess or implicate others, at which time it is essential to utilise the services of an experienced investigator.

It is obviously hugely beneficial at all stages of the polygraph process, if the examiner has a background in investigations.

Polygraph tests in South Africa do not have a legislated status in law, but there are many precedents (including Labour and CCMA courts) where the results of polygraph examinations have been accepted as collaborating evidence by the courts i.e. A voluntary confession obtained as the result of a polygraph examination tends to be well received by the courts.


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