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Lie Detectors 'Not Always Accurate'

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Published by the Pirate FM News Team at 7:01am 24th January 2013.

Pirate FM has learnt lie detectors brought in to check people claiming council tax discounts in Cornwall do not always get the right answer.

The phone tests are being used as part of a review of the 78,000 people in the Duchy claiming a 25% council tax discount for living alone.

A councillor quit the cabinet and blew the whistle on the scheme, which the council did not reveal when it announced the scheme in November.

The council insists it did not keep the tests a secret, with a spokesman insisting it just did not tell anyone.

Doctor Jamie Horder's a neuroscientist from King's College London. He said: "Voice risk analysis measures - or tries to measure - stress in people's voices. The idea is that if they're lying they'll be more stressed. The problem is that if you're asking people questions about their benefits they'll be stressed anyway, even if they're telling the truth.

"I'd say particularly in elderly people and particularly in benefit claimants who often have health problems, you're going to be putting them on the spot in a very stressful situation. I'd say that in making it more so there are serious ethical questions there."

The council admits the results are not always accurate but say it is just one tool of many that will be used. It added that the results will be reviewed by trained staff, but could not say how much training they would have had.

Pirate FM has found details about how to fool the voice risk anaylsis software are freely available on the internet.

In a statement the council said: "Identifying and removing these inappropriate claims could save at least £1m which could then be used to support essential services for people in Cornwall."

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