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What is Document Examination?


Document Examination or Forensic Document Examination is the science involved in the analysis and evaluation of various types of documentation for the purpose of helping to detect possible forgery, identifying writers and proving or disproving document authenticity.

Questioned document cases usually revolve around the handwriting and/or signatures surrounding the document. Others involve documents that have been physically manipulated  or altered. In many cases the sequence of entries, paper type, folds, watermarks, individual writing instrument or printer used may play a significant role. The document may be a composite one where new sections have been electronically or physically added at a later stage.

A Forensic Document Examiner is one who is qualified to review documents, handwriting, and signatures for forensic purposes. Graphology on the other hand is the study of handwriting to determine personality.

While Graphology is not a recognised branch of Forensic Science, there are many overlaps between the two disciplines and a sound training as a handwriting analyst is an extremely valuable asset for any Forensic Document Examiner.

The Document Examiner in the 21st century uses the latest hardware and software tools to help them determine if a document is genuine or not.

Handwriting examination is one of the oldest forensic disciplines, although it is not an exact science. A standard scientific approach is adopted by most examiners, Document Examination Ireland uses the Scientific Association of Forensic Examiners Guide for Examination of Handwritten Material, which is downloadable from the website below.

SAFE Standards

The SAFE standards have been included by NIST, The National Institute of Standards and Technology, U.S. Department of Commerce.

Evidence provided by Forensic Document Examiners has been deemed admissible by courts worldwide including Ireland. The science fulfils the US Daubert standard for admissibility of expert evidence.

Below are links to several recent High Court cases in Ireland where I gave evidence and handwriting evidence was deemed admissible-

Allied Irish Bank PLC -v- Casey

Kieran Wallace and Mark Etherington -v- Francis Davey