In short, no. The outcome of a handwriting or signature case is often dependent on the evidence available at the time of the comparison. There are situations where a meaningful comparison may be not possible. These situations include:
- Instances where there are too few features for comparison
- The signature or handwriting is very simple stylistically so could be readily simulated, or have a chance resemblance to another signature or handwriting
- A person’s signing behaviour is inconsistent
- A reliable body of specimen material is not available.
Yes, however original documents are always preferred as there is often other information that can be obtained from them (for example, impression evidence). In some cases it may be that only copies are available for examination. In these instances there can often be limitations associated with the examination. For example, the copy quality will often not show the finer details of the pen strokes or it can be difficult, if not impossible, to detect whether information has been digitally or manually ‘copied and pasted’ onto the document.
Ideally the more the better, however every case is different and does have different requirements as to what is needed. For signature cases, it is preferable to have at least 15-20 signatures, however this number can change depending on the complexity of the signature and the range of variation displayed by the signer. Where possible it is preferable to have general course of business specimens, rather than those produced for the purposes of a comparison, to ensure the writer’s natural writing is examined and that his or her full range of variation is captured. It is also important that the writing style of the specimens are similar to that on the questioned document i.e., printing can only be compared to printing and cursive compared to cursive. Also, specimen material that is contemporaneous to the event is required as a person’s handwriting or signature can evolve over time. Contemporaneous specimen is especially important for cases involving illness, impairment or age.
It is always preferable to undertake examinations in our laboratory, as most of the equipment is sensitive and not designed to be portable. However, some examinations can be done offsite with portable equipment. It should be noted in these circumstances that the result maybe limited. For an assessment as to whether or not an offsite examination is possible and the cost involved please contact us to discuss your case.
The type and amount of specimen material required will vary from case to case. The best option is to contact us directly to discuss your case. Guidance can then be provided as to the type of specimens needed and where these may be obtained. For signatures, general course of business signatures are ideal e.g. tax returns, leasing documents, legal documentation, contracts etc.
Examination results can be maximised by supplying as much contemporaneous, original specimen material as possible. If possible, the document should be kept in its original condition. It should be placed between cardboard or thick paper and then into a protective sleeve. Please avoid folding or crumpling the page. Do not add or remove staples as this can be valuable evidence. If you need to make copies of the documents before supplying them to us, please lay them flat on the glass of the photocopier rather than placing them into the document feeding tray.
Before sending documents to the laboratory for examination, please contact us first for advice and a quotation. Before any case can be accepted, a conflict check must first be performed. Examinations will only commence upon receipt of a signed Engagement Agreement and payment of our 50% retainer fee. Whilst the original documents are always preferable, documents can be emailed for examination. However, as discussed above, there are often limitations when examining non-original documents. The following steps should be followed when preparing a case for examination:
- Please contact us as soon as possible for initial advice. Here we will ask some basic information about the case so that we can provide advice regarding the relevant documentation required and the types of forensic examinations that can be undertaken.
- If the document is also being considered for the examination of latent fingerprints, the document examination component MUST go first. Our examiners are trained to handle documents in such a way as to prevent contamination. Many of the processes used to develop latent prints involve the treatment of the document with liquid chemicals. These chemicals can cause the ink to run and also prevent the development of latent indentations
- Try and keep the handling of the documents to a minimum and please do not fold, bend or scrunch them. Rather the documents should be placed in a protective sleeve and kept flat
- If original documents are not available please supply the earliest and/or best available copy.
- Avoid putting the documents through automatic feeders on photocopiers, scanners or faxes as this can cause damage to the document. Rather place them directly onto the glass bed.
- Avoid using any binding mechanism such as staples, paper clips or fold back clips.
- Place the document in an appropriately sized folder or envelope to avoid putting extra folds in the document. Make sure you do NOT write on the folder or envelope if the documents are inside to avoid introducing impressions
- Protect the document from environmental extremes such as sunlight, humidity, heat and moisture as this can cause ink to fade, paper to discolour and may affect the ability to obtain indentations or impressions
- Clearly label which documents are specimens (i.e., can be relied upon for the examination) and which are in question (i.e., authorship is unknown). Also provide a brief outline of the examinations required.
Please contact us directly for a costing estimate of the case. Note a 50% retainer payment will be required before the examination will begin. Final payment will be required prior to the expert report being released.
Yes. DiD examiners are court recognised experts and have many years’ experience at providing oral testimony in all levels of court.
No. Forensic document examiners do not tell a person’s personality from their handwriting. Graphologists profess to do that.
No, not unless prior permission has been received from our office. In most cases, examinations only begin following a conflict check and upon retention, which requires payment of a retainer and a signed Engagement Agreement for Expert Services. The quality of the evidence will help determine the strength of the opinion that can be given. PDFs may result in degenerated or inaccurate representations of original evidence. To request a fee schedule, please contact us so a conflict check may be run and information provided regarding submitting evidence for your case.
No. A Forensic Document Examiner (FDE) also examines typewriting, computer-generated documents, rubber stamps, inks, pens, paper, alterations, obliterations, indented impressions, photocopies, and faxes. This is not an exhaustive list. Examinations are generally conducted to determine the authenticity, source, content, or (if possible) age of a document.