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By Peter Stevenson MEMBERS of Volunteer Doctors Cyprus have treated around 350 people at their free clinic in Nicosia since it opened three months ago, while two more, one in Paphos and one in Polis are due to open today. Limassol also has a free clinic, which was opened only last month, and plans have been drawn ...
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Cyprus Internet Directory [ I promise to tell the truth ]

I promise to tell the truth

Patrick Dewhurst

"Did you hide my keys in your bag?"

Pause, breathe, "No."

"Did you hide my keys in your pocket?"

Outside a bird tweets. Then all is silent again. "No."

Then a pause that feels like an eternity. I know what's coming, and draw breath.

"Did you hide my keys in my jacket pocket?"

I focus on steadying my breathing, and repeat. "No."

The polygraph continues to track my vital statistics as the test continues…

I am in a quiet Nicosian suburb to meet Yiannis Saveriades. He is a US certified polygrapher, who’s currently trying to introduce lie detection technology to Cyprus. Intrigued by a flyer that arrived in the Cyprus Mail letterbox, I decided to visit his offices and find out more.

Before I saw the flyer I had thought of polygraphs as an American obscurity, used only in daytime talk shows in the UK. So I was surprised to learn that since 2007, they have been used by British parole boards to check if sex offenders' are ready to re-enter society. If they fail to show that they will not re-offend, they stay locked up.

With this in mind, Saveriades is pitching the system to Cypriot authorities, his sights set on the police and pre-employment screening market. “Cyprus’ legal system is similar to the British one, and so polygraphs could be used here.”

So far, however, the biggest demand has come from another group; predictably, jealous lovers. "I have had two couples come to me already," he says. "In the first case a husband was suspicious of his wife's weekly nights out with the girls. She passed."

The next was more sensational, and maybe worthy of an American talk show. "A girl wanted her lover, a married man with a wife and child, to prove that he had promised to leave his family for her. After failing the test he admitted that he had not told his wife he was leaving her."

Unlike the talk shows, however, there are no burly security staff to restrain wild scorned lovers, so how does he manage irate couples?

"Well, when it comes to couples, I interview the couple separately then together, and explain the procedure. If I think they are mature enough to accept the results, I go ahead with the test. If I see signs that they will start shouting or get violent, I don’t do the test."

Asked if this is really the best way to deal with a trust issue, he says "It is one way, and it can be cheaper than private detectives or secret cameras, which many couples are doing."

For a two hour consultation, private customers pay around €400. "This depends on the number of questions and the complexity of the case," he says. "It is the same for a court case. Depending on the severity of the crime, I might ask more questions." The polygrapher's bread and butter, however, is pre-employment screening, which start at around 100 euros.

Legally and ethically, however, polygraphs are divisive bits of kit. In many US states and the UK, where the legal system is similar to Cyprus', polygraph results are not admissible as evidence in court, and they are not yet used in Cyprus.

That is not to say they will not eventually be used here. Ionas Nicolaou, Chairman of the Parliamentary Legal Affairs Committee takes an open minded view. "Cyprus does not have this tool in the legal system, but we would never say no to something that could be useful."

Petros Petrides, head of the Ethics committee, seems to share this view. “We have not come across these before, and I think they would come under the Justice Ministry’s jurisdiction.”

According to Saveriades, lie detectors are 92 per cent reliable, and a repeat test can normally clarify the remaining eight per cent. Alarmingly, I am told, one per cent of the population is psychopathic, and produces inconclusive results.

As a natural sceptic, I am keen to take a test. Saveriades explains the biology of deception, and why polygraphs definitely do work. He attaches an array of gadgets to measure heart rate, blood pressure, fingertip humidity and breathing. Lastly there is the countermeasures cushion; an ultra-sensitive pressure pad which can detect attempts to fix the results by clenching my muscles.

"When a person lies, and they are fearful of the consequences, the body produces a fight or flight response. This means blood travels away from the extremities to the heart and brain."

At the same time, heart rate and breathing quickens, and curiously, our fingertips begin to sweat. We begin with a control test, in which I write down the number four, before being asked if I have written each number, from one to ten. I am to deny every question, meaning that I have to lie at least once. This gives the examiners an idea of how my "lie" appears biologically, before the real test begins.

I am, it seems, a textbook fibber. I fail the first test with flying colours. Moments before I lie, my breaths deepen, my fingertips sweat and my fidgeting sends the cushion's readings off the scale.

"This is why we tell people what order the questions will be in, so that they begin to anticipate a lie and feel a bit of stress."

Then Saveriades proposes a game. I am to hide his keys in one of six places while he waits outside. He has to find out where.

Plugged into the machine once again, the test begins. I know to sit as still as possible and breathe regularly, but can I control the sweaty palms?

After three rounds of interrogation, he begins the analysis. He eliminates my bag, pocket and cupboard, then after a pause, mistakenly rules out his jacket pocket. I had beaten the test. On closer inspection, my readings fluctuated slightly around the lie, but not enough to be conclusive.

Saveriades insists that, had there been real consequences to my lie, such as imprisonment or the break up of a marriage, my responses would have been amplified. Though my one off test is not conclusive enough to invalidate the device, it nonetheless shows it is fallible. I leave wondering how concerned a rapist or murderer would be about telling a lie.

  • For more information about the polygraph tests, call Yiannis Saveriades on 99145147 or email

(Source: Cyprus Mail)
Copyright © Cyprus Mail 2008 Please contact Cyprus Mail for the copyright terms of this article.

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