A LEADING scientist has slammed so called pioneering technology used by Harrow Council - saying that believing it works is like believing in fairy tales.
Professor Lacerda, a lecturer at Stockholm University, Sweden, has been leading research in to lie detector tests, used by the council to oust benefit fraudsters.
The phonetics expert has been leading research in his field for more than 30 years and he says the equipment is a complete waste of money that relies solely on psychological impact, not technology.
He feels it could lead to law abiding citizens being falsely persecuted and is no more likely to find the fraudsters.
He said: "The whole thing that this system is producing is a psychological affect. It impacts on how people behave, yet no one has tested to see whether the same impact would be produced by pretending they were being tested by a lie detector test.
"It would produce the same results and would have saved thousands of pounds in useless technology and more in training.
"The way the system works is it picks up on stresses in the voice or changes in pitch but neither of these things actually make people liars. It is completely unreliable.
"There could be noise in the background which sets off the equipment which will inevitably trigger an expectation in the member of staff taking the call.
"It's very dangerous. I personally think staff might as well flip a coin prior to the call and make a decision based on that. Because, quite frankly, believing in this is just as silly as believing in fairy tales."
The lie detector tests have now been rolled out across the country after Harrow piloted the scheme more than a year ago.
Staff who take calls on benefits let the resident know they are being monitored by the equipment before going through a 30 minute questioning process.
The equipment is said to pick up on stress levels in the callers voice, which allows staff to assess if the person is considered to be a low or high risk case of fraud.
High risk callers are followed up, and Harrow Council say this has saved them more than £700,000 in false benefit claims.
Councillor Paul Osborn (Con), responsible for communication at the council said: "I have to say that when it was first suggested to us I too was a bit wary of the technology, but this system is part of a whole process.
"If it didn't work then we would be chasing loads of people who aren't trying to claim more than they're entitled to and we would be losing money on those that are.
"This simply isn't the case. There is an argument for saying that pathological liars would be calm under pressure and there would be no detection of stress in their calls for benefit claims. But most people aren't pathological liars and this research can't argue with the fact that we have saved a lot of money."