Forensic Handwriting Examination is the comparison of handwritings (between the questioned documents and the genuine documents, or reference standards) and the degrees of conclusion on them being written by the same person.
It is used to determine the genuineness of handwriting when there is a dispute in the authenticity of documents. This would include signatures, wills, contracts, letters, threatening letters, suicide notes, ransom notes, passports, drivers’ licenses, cheques, tax returns, sales receipts, torn pieces of paper, photocopies, faxes, stamps etc. These documents could be written, typed, signed or marked.
Handwriting is a psycho-physiological and neuromuscular process. For the skilled writer, the act of forming letters is automatic and unconscious. The writing movements and actions of a forger are deliberate and conscious.
There is no regulatory body in South Africa to assess the standards of courses in forensic handwriting identification or document examination and therefore there are no accredited studies.
However, the FHE course I studied over a period of 2 years was developed according to the UNODC guidelines and the ASTM (international) standards.
In addition, I am a director of APHESA – Association of Professional Handwriting Examiners for South Africa.
I also remain current by reading books and materials on the subject.
A person’s writing is as a result of a collection of habits which have been gradually developed. Every time a person writes, their writing will differ as a result of many influences. This is called natural variation.
As a result of these changes, forensic handwriting examination still requires interpretation of the findings.
Using ASTM E1658-08 – Standard Terminology for Expressing Conclusions of Forensic Document Examiners, we define our conclusions.
The term “forensic” means “having to do with the law” and “relating to or denoting the application of scientific methods and techniques to the investigation of crime”.
While largely qualitative and subjective in nature, forensic handwriting examination is a credible science adhering to tried and tested procedures in order to draw conclusions about the features of handwriting contained in documents.
The ACE process is followed:
A critical part in the process is to test the reliability and validity of the conclusions we draw.
A Forensic Handwriting Examiner follows processes and measurable standards to determine the authenticity of a suspected handwriting against a known handwriting. The examiner does not delve into the person’s personality.
Handwriting Analysis, whilst following processes, is not always measurable or scientific. The analyst goes into the personality and character of the writer.
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Forensic Handwriting Analysis