What’s so interesting about the polygraph?

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Analytics reports on the BC Provincial Court’s website for 2018 contain a lot of good news but they raise one question that’s stumping judges and the Court’s Digital Communications Coordinator. Why is there so much interest in the polygraph?

Since December 2014 the Court has published eNews articles – informal news and information articles posted weekly or bi-weekly in a blog format on its website. Readership has increased each year. In 2018 there were 60,431 page views of eNews articles – an increase of 68% over the previous year!

The articles are contributed by judges, judicial justices or Ann Rounthwaite, the Court’s Digital Communications Coordinator and eNews editor. Subjects include useful information for people appearing in court, helpful justice system resources, innovative reform initiatives, and some more entertaining topics of general interest.

Most popular eNews posted in 2018

Of the articles written in 2018, the five visited most often were:

While litigants expressed appreciation for the “how to” articles, the lighter topics prompted lively discussion on the Court’s Twitter account, @BCrovCourt. Even the Harvard Law Library weighed in, tweeting:

“Why do Canadian judges wear robes? A brief history of Canadian judicial fashion from @BCProvCourt”

and one of the Court’s Twitter followers commented cheekily,

“At long last, we finally have a citation for describing the ceremonial SCC robes as “Santa suits” - this article #cdnlaw”.

The article on gavels encouraged Canadians to avoid using images of gavels, since Canadian judges don’t use them. It gave rise to hashtags - #NOGAVELS and #NOGAVEL - and a lot of good-natured banter on the Court’s Twitter account. Although they express frustration at the scarcity of alternate images, some BC journalists are doing a tremendous job of avoiding pictures of gavels to illustrate stories about courts.

Most visited eNews in 2018

Looking beyond the new eNews postings in 2018, some articles posted in previous years are perennial favourites, and it’s their analytics that contained surprises. Here are the five articles visited most often last year.

eNews Date Pageviews in 2018
Can evidence of a polygraph test be used in court? 10/05/2016 6350
Can I go to court to watch what goes on? 02/025/2017 4219
Important changes to Small Claims Court 20/03/2017 2082
How to enforce a Small Claims Court Payment Order - with a payment hearing 05/16/2018 1833
How do you ask for a court interpreter? Do you have to pay? 08/08/2017 1701

Judges can understand the public interest in Small Claims Court, interpreters, and visiting court. But the polygraph (lie detector) is not often an issue for lawyers and judges because, as the article explains, its results are rarely admissible as evidence in court proceedings.

What is it about the polygraph that captures the public interest? Polygraph tests, or the invitation to take the test, are used in criminal and child protection investigations in British Columbia even though the results are not admissible. Could that account for the ongoing interest in the topic?

The continuing high number of page views of this article mystifies us. If you can explain it or have a theory, please let us know by tweeting to @BCProvCourt.

We’d also welcome your ideas for eNews – what topics interest you? Please tweet your suggestions to @BCProvCourt.