LETTERS: The government must conduct thorough studies before allowing the results of polygraph tests to be used as evidence in court.
Although several countries allow polygraph tests in their legal system, particularly in their criminal justice system, we must not forget that such tests have weaknesses, especially in terms of their veracity and authenticity.
Popularly known as a lie detector, the polygraph is a device that measures and records a person’s physiological indicators, like blood pressure, pulse, respiration and skin conductivity, while the person answers questions.
Polygraph tests are mostly used to make assessments about a person’s credibility.
Results from the tests are often used as evidence in law to implicate the accused in a crime.
Different countries have different views on using polygraph tests as evidence.
United States law enforcement and intelligence agencies are by far the biggest users of polygraphs.
In the US, most federal law enforcement agencies either use their own polygraph examiners or use the services of examiners employed by other agencies.
In Canada, the Supreme Court in 1987 rejected the use of polygraph test results as evidence in did, but the court’s decision does not stop the use of the test in criminal investigations.
In India, the Supreme Court declared that the use of polygraphs was illegal and against the constitution if the person’s consent had not been obtained.
Article 20(3) of India’s Constitution states that “no person accused of any offence shall be compelled to be a witness against himself”.
Polygraph tests are still legal in India if a defendant requests one.
In Europe, the practice varies by country, but polygraphs are not considered reliable and are not generally used by law enforcement.
Polygraph testing is widely seen in Europe as a violation of the rights of an individual to remain silent.
In Malaysia, every piece of evidence must be in line with the Evidence Act 1950.
Our statute provides clear guidelines on the submission of evidence, whether it is a civil or criminal case.
Our statute ensures that every piece of evidence tendered in court must be of good quality and highly reliable.
There shall be no room for weak evidence to be used against anyone in our courts.
Every piece of evidence tendered should be the best evidence to ensure fairness and justice for all parties.
If we submit poor, doubtful evidence, it can affect the case and tarnish our judiciary’s reputation.
If the public has no trust and confidence in our judicial system, the system will collapse.
Thus, it is very important for the government to study carefully the proposal to use polygraph tests as a way to gather evidence.
The validity of such devices is a subject of debate in the legal community and their reliability to generate evidence is in doubt.
DR MUZAFFAR SYAH MALLOW
Syariah and Law Faculty, Universiti Sains Islam Malaysia
The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect those of the New Straits Times