Recently I was given some instructions along the lines of “If you can include the word forgery in your report it would go a long way to help my negotiation position”.
It is worth considering the definition of forgery as outlined in the Irish Statute Book, Criminal Justice (Theft and Fraud Offences) Act, 2001-
“ A person is guilty of forgery if he or she makes a false instrument with the intention that it shall be used to induce another person to accept it as genuine and, by reason of so accepting it, to do some act, or to make some omission, to the prejudice of that person or any other person.”
Forgery is a criminal offence and as such, only a court of law can make a determination whether a forgery has been committed or not.
When a Document Examiner gives an opinion on a specific case they will never use the word forgery. The Document Examiner can only give an opinion on whether a signature or document is genuine or not. A typical opinion from a Document Examiner might be along the lines of “There is strong evidence to support the view that it is highly probable that the signature on Q-1 is not a genuine signature from John Doe” or “in my opinion it is highly probable that the signature on Q-1 is a simulation and not a genuine signature from John Doe”.
Recently I gave evidence in a High Court case where a signature page from one contract had been appended to a completely different contract, which was then presented by one party as a valid agreement. This could have been done deliberately with fraudulent intent, but due to the amount of paperwork involved it could also simply have been down to an administrative error. Whether forgery had been committed or not was up to the court to decide. My opinion was simply “I have no reasonable doubt that the signature page on document A has been copied from the signature page on document B”.
Another example would be the common scenario where one spouse has signed for the other on important documents such as loan agreements or guarantees. This may have been a completely normal practice for the individuals concerned or it could have been done by one party without the other’s consent. In this case it is not the role of the Document Examiner to determine intent, but simply to give an opinion on whether a particular signature is genuine or not. Having said that, the Document Examiner can assist the court with determining intent. If a signature in question has been carefully simulated and closely resembles a genuine signature it would reflect a degree of intent on the part of the individual responsible for that simulation. In this scenario however there may be very limited or no handwriting evidence actually linking the other spouse to the simulated signature as they may well have successfully suppressed their own writing habits.