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'Up to 700' Given Lie Detector Tests in Cornwall

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2:19pm 5th September 2013
(Updated 2:19pm 5th September 2013)

Pirate FM has learnt lie detector tests have been used up to seven hundred times in Cornwall.

It was part of a project to check people were not claiming council tax discounts they should not have had.

News of the phone tests only came out because of a whistle blower under the previous administration at County Hall.

At the time the council said there was a difference between keeping something secret - and just not telling us something.

Private company Capita was brought in to run the screening process, which involved voice stress recognition tests in some cases.

Overall the review has saved £1.2m - but the council says it is impossible to tell how big a part the lie detector tests played in that.

Now Alex Folkes, Cornwall's Cabinet Member for Finance and Resources, says he will not bring forward fresh proposals to use the technology and would vote against such a scheme.

He told Pirate FM: "It's right we should always as Cornwall Council be trying to make sure that nobody is claiming a discount or a benefit to which they are not entitled. But I think in doing that perfectly proper work there are lines that we, morally and philosophically, should not be crossing."

Neuroscientist at King's College London James Horder said: "This technology measures - or tries to measure - stress in people's voices.

"The idea is that, if they're lying, they'll be more stressed.

"But the problem is that, if they're being asked questions about their benefits they'll be stressed anyway.

"Even if they're telling the truth it's a stressful conversation to have."

2:19pm 5th September 2013

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