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By alinory KWENA, CFIP

Questioned document examination:
Questioned document examination (QDE) is also known by many as Forensic Document
Examination. It mainly covers document examination, and handwriting examination
(analysis). A forensic document examiner is not to be confused with a graphologist, and vice
versa. The questioned document division of a crime lab is sometimes referred to as “QD” in
popular media.
The task of forensic document examination is to answer questions about a disputed document
using a variety of scientific processes and methods. Many examinations involve a comparison
of the questioned document, or components of the document, to a set of known standards.
The most common type of examination involves handwriting wherein the examiner tries to
address concerns about potential authorship.
One task of a forensic document examiner is to determine if a questioned item originated
from the same source as the known item(s), then present their opinion in court as an expert
witness. Other tasks include determining what has happened to a document, determining
when a document was produced, or deciphering information on the document that has been
obscured, obliterated or erased.
Scope of document examination
Forensic document examiner is intimately linked to the legal system as a forensic scientist.
Forensic science is the application of science to address issues under consideration in
the legal system. Common criminal charges involved in a document examination case fall
into the “white-collar crime” category. These include forgery, counterfeiting, fraud, or
uttering a forged document. However, documents may be important in many other contexts.
A forensic document examiner deals with items that form part of a case which may or may
not come before a court of law. The many types of possible examinations are as follows:

– Handwriting (cursive / printing) and Signatures
– Typewriters, Photocopiers, Laser printers, Fax machines
– Chequewriters, Rubber stamps, Price markers, Label makers
– Printing Processes
– Ink, Pencil, Paper
– Alterations, additions, erasures, obliterations
– Indentations
– Sequence of Strokes
– Physical Matching


What sort of documents are examined?
Any document that is disputed in a litigation.
Documents feature prominently in all manner of business and personal affairs. Almost any
type of document may become disputed in an investigation or litigation. For example, aquestioned document may be a sheet of paper bearing handwriting or mechanically-produced
text such as a ransom note, a forged cheque or a business contract. Or it may be some
material not normally thought of as a ‘document’. Forensic document examiners define the
word “document” in a very broad sense as being any material bearing marks, signs or
symbols intended to convey a message or meaning to someone. This encompasses traditional
paper documents but also includes things like graffiti on a wall, stamp impressions on meat
products, or covert markings hidden in a written letter, among other things.
Some forensic document examiners limit their work to the examination and comparison of
handwriting, but most of the forensic document examiners inspect the whole document.


Case references:
– http://kenyalaw.org/caselaw/cases/view/125904/
– http://kenyalaw.org/caselaw/cases/view/156785/
– http://kenyalaw.org/caselaw/cases/view/116933
– http://kenyalaw.org/caselaw/cases/view/137665
– http://kenyalaw.org/caselaw/cases/view/7631/
– http://kenyalaw.org/caselaw/cases/view/164485/

Candidacy
A person who desires to enter a career of FDE must possess certain traits and abilities. First
and foremost, excellent eyesight is required in order to see fine details that are otherwise
inconspicuous. The aspirant must also pass a form blindness test in order to ensure that the
aspirant does not suffer from the condition of being unable to tell apart two similarly-
appearing, yet different, items. Similarly, successful completion of a test for color
perception is normal. A bachelor of science degree is also typically required, as it gives the
aspirant a scientific background with which to approach the work in an objective manner, as
well as bestowing necessary Biological, Physical, and Chemical knowledge sometimes called
upon. ASTM Standard E2388-05 (Standard Guide for Minimum Training Requirements for
Forensic Document Examiners) has “an earned baccalaureate degree or equivalent” as one of
several requirements. Additional desirable skills would include knowledge of paper, ink,
printing processes, or handwriting.


Training
There are three possible methods of instruction for an aspiring document examiner:

Self-education is the way in which the pioneers of the field began, as there was no
other method of instruction.

Apprenticeship has become the widespread manner in which many examiners are now
taught. In fact, this is the method that is recommended by ASTM in Standard E2388-

To conform with the ASTM standard such training “shall be the equivalent of a
minimum of 24 months full-time training under the supervision of a principal trainer”
and “the training program shall be successfully completed in a period not to exceed
four years”.3. College and/or university programs are very limited at this time. This is due, in part,
to the relatively limited demand for forensic document examiners. It also relates to the
need for extensive practical experience; particularly with respect to handwriting
examination. It is difficult to include this degree of practical experience in a
normal academic program.
A forensic document examination trainee must learn how to present evidence before the court
in clear, forceful testimony. Fledgling examiners in the later stages of training can get a
glimpse into the legal process as well as a better sense of this aspect of their work through
participation in a mock trial or by attending actual court hearings to observe the testimony of
qualified examiners. Examination
The examination of handwriting to assess potential authorship proceeds from the principle of
identification which can be expressed as: “Two writings are the product of one person if the
similarities, when taken in combination, are sufficiently individual and there are no
fundamental unexplainable differences.”
There are three stages in the process of examination. In brief, they are:
The questioned and the known items are analyzed and broken down to directly
perceptible characteristics.
The characteristics of the questioned item are then compared against the known standard.
Evaluation of the similarities and differences of the compared properties determines which
ones are valuable for a conclusion. This depends on the uniqueness and frequency of
occurrence in the items.
ASTM Standard E2290-03 (Standard Guide for Examination of Handwriting) outlines the
procedure followed by most reputable examiners.

Another method is provided online by the Forensic Expertise Profiling Laboratory
(School of Human Biosciences, La Trobe University, Victoria, Australia). The
method is divided into 11 modules which may be accessed via the FEPL website.
Common tools of the trade
– Excellent Eyesight
– Handlens/Loupe
– Stereomicroscope
– Electrostatic Detection Apparatus (ESDA)
– Video Spectral Comparator (VSC)

Professional organizations

– American Society of Questioned Document Examiners (ASQDE) – USA
– American Academy of Forensic Science (AAFS) – USA
– Australasian Society of Forensic Document Examiners (ASFDE) – Australia/Asia
– ASOCIACIÓN PROFESIONAL DE PERITOS CALÍGRAFOS DE CATALUÑA
(España)
– Canadian Society of Forensic Science (CSFS) – Canada

– Southwestern Association of Forensic Document Examiners (SWAFDE) – Southwest
USA
– Southeastern Association of Forensic Document Examiners (SAFDE) – Southeast
USA
– Forensic Science Society (FSS) – United Kingdom

– International Association for Identification (IAI)
– Gesellschaft für Forensische Schriftuntersuchung (GFS) – Frankfurt (Germany)
– National Association of Document Examiners (NADE)
– Association of Forensic Document Examiners (AFDE)- I am a member.


Characteristics of forgeries, Obliteration, Alterations and Erasures
Forgeries may be committed by writing big pencil or pen by type written matter by printing,
or by engraving, by erasing or altering the contents of a document or by obliterating the
original writing, etc.
Types of Forgeries.
for the purpose of the subject of identification and comparison of signatures and writings
forgeries may be classified as:
Free hand forgery
In this type of forgery, the forger selects a model signature or writing and he tries to copy the
design of letters and other broad features depending upon his skill, practice, and competency.

Traced forgery
As the name indicates trace forgery is prepared by drawing the outline of a genuine signature
by the process of tracing.

Forgery by memory
It refers to the signature or writing prepared from the material from the mental impressions of
forms and letters of the signatures or writing prepared from the mental impressions of the
forms of letters of the signatures of the actual writer and without any model signature or
writing before the forger at the time of forgery.

Forgery by Impersonation
When a person merely writes / signs the name of another person in his own hand writing in
normal manner or in some modified manner, representing himself to be that person with
some ulterior motive, such signature is a forgery.

Identification of forger
When an expert opines that a particular signature is a forged signature he is often asked to
answer the question “ who forged it” ? In any forgeries a forger tends to leave his own hand
writing habits to link him with the forgery in the process, however, the forger may leave few
elements of his own habits in the forged signature which helps to pin point him.


Alteration

Any change which gives the document a different effect from that which it originally
possessed in termed as alteration. If the change is made after execution of a document and
without the consent of the other party than such changes is called fraudulent alteration. The
alteration may be caused by the addition, erasure, obliteration,
cancellation, interlinking or substitution etc.
Obliteration
To obliterate means to blaught out so as not be readily or clearly readable.
An obliteration may be either intentional or unintentional. Writing may be
intentionally obliterated to render them indecipherable by covering or obscuring with
marking, overwriting, blots of ink or rubbing with pencil or carbon paper etc.
Erasures
Erasure can be basically divided in to two groups:
Physical erasures
Physical removal of writing, impressions or part thereof may be accomplished by the
abrasion of the surface of paper with the help of rubber erasure or sharp instruments such as
razor blades, scalper, knife or emory paper etc.

Chemical erasures
Are those in which some chemicals are used to erase some written document for his/ her
purpose. They may be acids or alkaline as oxalic acid, potassium permanganate, etc. The
chemical tests should never be applied on the document itself. The better way is to punch
out small dots of paper from the affected area with the help of hypodermic needle and test
them on microscope slide.

QUESTIONED DOCUMENT:
(By- Mr. Sujoy Mitra, Amity University)
Handwriting
Handwriting is an acquired skill and clearly one that is a complex perceptual motor task,
sometimes referred to as a neuromuscular task.
Skilled writing movements are so commonplace that one is inclined to overlook their
complexity. Without exaggeration, however writing is one of the most advanced
achievements of the human hand.
The hand is an extremely complex and delicate mechanism, containing some twenty-seven
bones controlled by more than forty muscles. Most of the muscles are situated in the lower
arm and connect to the fingers by an intricate set of tendons. Their ability in manipulating a
writing instrument is precisely coordinated by a timing system under a neural control of
movements of the arm, the hand, and the fingers. The precise ordering and timing of the
movements determines the structure of the pattern i.e., recorded with the pen or pencils.The development of writing is complex because, it is, in part, culture dependent, and cultures
differ with locales and undergo constant change. The evidence of this dependence in
manifesting in class, system, or national characteristics.
Writing is a continuous or flowing task, not one of discrete or separated actions. There are
apparent interruptions at word boundaries, but in many cases the pen movement may be
continuous and uninterrupted, although not recorded as an inked line.
A feature of skill performance, and certainly of handwriting, is that it involves the movement
occurs at its proper time and place in the sequence. The particular pattern of these
movements constitutes the habitual aspects of writing that are peculiar to each
individual. The fact that, with practice and skill, the execution of writing habits becomes
more automatic renders the writing process less subject to conscious control.
Handwriting identification
There are two fundamental fields of study pertaining to handwriting:
i. The study of handwriting as a neuromuscular activity, its development as a skill and
the effect upon it of various and external factors.
ii. The study of handwriting identification as a discriminatory process. Handwriting
identification is a discriminatory process that derives from the compression of writing
habits and an evaluation of significance of their similarities or differences. What has
been commonly and frequently referred to characteristics or writing features, or
qualities are simplified manifestations of the habits formed. They are the
discriminating elements of handwriting.
Writing characteristics have been commonly described as being of one or two types: class
characteristics (the products of prescribed writing systems) and individual characteristics (the
particular idiosyncrasies of the individual). Class characteristics were seen in predominant
writing system but the current move of the many more excellence of modern writing, class
characteristics are progressively less discernible and identifiable in the inscription of present-
day writers. The individual characteristic – is a large combination of handwriting system.
Process of underlying identification
The careful and systematic use of evidence, which is common to the many disciplines
of forensic science, is directed toward the identification of an unknown. The process
involves three distinct steps or stages:

– Analysis or discriminating element determination: The unknown item and the known
items must, by analysis, by examination or study, be reduced to a matter of their
discriminating elements. These are the habits of behavior or of performances that
serve to differentiate between products or people, which may be directly observable,
measurable or otherwise perceptible aspects of the item.
– Comparison: The discriminating element of the unknown, observed or determined
through analysis, examination or study, must be compared with those known,
observed, or recorded of the standard items.
– Evaluation: Similarities or dissimilarities in discriminating elements will each have a
certain value for discrimination purposes, determined by their cause, independence, or likelihood of occurrence. The weight or significance of the similarities or the
difference of each element must then be considered and the explanation for them
proposed.
Accordingly, we would suggest five respects in which a signature, or a writing, may be
judged to rate its intricacies or complexity:
a. The aggregate line length: Generally speaking, the longer the line, the more
complex the design. There are of course some stylist signatures that contain
length of strokes of no purpose. We are not referring to this.
b. The number of pronounced directional changes in the line: When directional
changes are angles in the vicinity of 180°, they constitute retraces. When less
than 90° they may be departure in straight-line movement or commencement
of curves. If not the directional changes in writing will be due simply to
allograph design.
c. The number of overwriting: Overwriting can be misleading stroke direction,
and thus confusing as to allograph construction. These are two types retracing
and superimposition. We define retracing as a line situated over another line,
but is generated by pen motion in the opposite direction. A superimposition
defines a line situated over another line and is generated by pen motion in the
same direction.
d. The continuity of the pen movement: It is based on continuation of pen, pen
lift, pen pause, etc.
e. The repetition of well segregated, complex pen motion: Fluent and complex
pen motion can be executed with ease but only when natural or practiced.
Class characteristics
The handwriting characteristics reflected in a group of individuals and are learnt by the child
at the onset of learning to write. The style of writing, which is acquired by the learner, is what
which is fashionable at the particular time and place. Following are the features, which are
covered in class characteristics: –
▪ Type of movement
▪ Line quality
▪ Speed and skill
▪ Rhythm
▪ Spacing between letters, word and line
▪ Slant
▪ Alignment
▪ Connection and strokes between letters
▪ Size and proportions of letters
▪ Pen pressure, pen hold, pen position and pen shading
▪ Coordination of writing muscles
Individual characteristicsThe writer with the passage of time acquires personal characteristics and each individual
develops peculiarities in his handwriting. Some are consciously acquired for style and
pictorial appearance or for convenience, while other habits become rooted in the writing
process. The principle on which the individual handwritings characteristics are found in the
handwriting are: –
i. Identifying and differentiating characteristics which are most divergent from the
regular copy-book standard are of the most force
ii. Repeated characteristics which are inconspicuous should be first sought
iii. Characteristics those are modified or individualized by different writers in different
ways. The curious physical twist in the formations of characters would show
individualized characteristics of a writer.
National Characteristics
To the extent that writing system within a country share common features and induce
class characteristics in the writing of its people, which are different from the products of
writing system of other countries, such features are referred to as National Characteristics.
Accidentals characteristics in writing
There are occurrences in writings that may have little or no plausible
explanation. They may be unusual forms, shapes or movements, breaks in the writing lines,
even the doubling of some letters or parts of letters. They are more often minor in nature, in
frequent, and of insufficient concern to the writer as to warrant attention or correction.
Definition: Accidentals are isolated, brief, or temporary digressions from normal writing
practices. Rather a designation or label given to an element of a questioned writing that
digresses significantly from the normal and natural writing practices observed in the writing
standards.
Circumstances for the production of handwriting
Osborn and others have generally agreed that despite numerous similarities in two
sets of writing a conclusion or identity can’t be made if there are one or more differences in
fundamental features of writing. There are some points suggested for this:

• Adequacy of standards
• Accidental occurrences
• Alternative styles
• Ambidexterity
• Carelessness or negligence
• Changes in health condition of writer

Others are:
– Changes in physical condition of writer
– Changes in mental condition of writer
– Concentration on the act of writing
– Disguise or deliberate change
– Influence of Drugs or alcohol

– Influence of medications
– Intentional change for later denial
– Nervous tension
– Natural variation
– Writing condition – place or circumstances
– Writing instrument
– Writing position – including stance
– Writing surface
– Writing under stress
There are a number of circumstances that have an effect upon the conclusion, which
can be drawn in handwriting studies and examination. These include:

– The qualitative insufficiency of the habits exhibited by the questioned material
– Wide variation in the standard from one writing occasion to the next
The quantitative insufficiency of the habits that the questioned material contains
– Poor writing skill and degeneration of letter forms
– The unreliability of reproductions as a record of writing habits and of the character of
the original document, when examination of the original is not possible
– The deliberate distortion or disguised of the questioned writing or of the writing
standards
– An anomalous condition of the writer or circumstances of writing
What makes handwriting identification difficult?
There are a number of circumstances that have an effect upon the conclusion, which
can be drawn in handwriting studies and examination. These include:

– The qualitative insufficiency of the habits exhibited by the questioned material
– Wide variation in the standard from one writing occasion to the next
– The quantitative insufficiency of the habits that the questioned material contains
– Poor writing skill and degeneration of letter forms
– The unreliability of reproductions as a record of writing habits and of the character of
the original document, when examination of the original is not possible
– The deliberate distortion or disguised of the questioned writing or of the writing
standards
– An anomalous condition of the writer or circumstances of writing of the questioned
document
A. Elements of Style

Arrangement
• Influenced by artistic ability, sense of proportion and instruction received.

• The product of a group of habits.

Class of Allograph
• The four styles of allograph.


Connections
– Interword.
– Intraword.

Designs of Allograph and their Constructions

– Correspondence to foreign/domestic or particular writing systems.
-Number, nature, position, sequence, and direction of strokes in letter composition.
-Use of two or more forms for the same letter.
-Capitalization – divergences from standard practices.

Dimensions
• Proportions of elements of letters, i.e., of bowls to the staffs, bodies to loops, of
arches to loops.
• Absolute sizes.
• Relative sizes – of specific letters to specific letters, – According to position in words.

Slant or Slop
• Of the writing in general, and,
• Of letters of parts of letter in particular.

Spacing
• Interword.
• Intraword.

Elements of Execution
1. Abbreviations
• Word contractions that eliminate letters.
• Letter combinations that sacrifice from for speed.
2. Alignment
• The relation of successive letter of a signature, a word or line of writing to an actual
or imaginary base line.
3. Commencements and Terminations
• Their length, direction, and path
• Their taper (the abruptness with which the instrument approaches and leaves the
paper)

4. Diacritics and Punctuation – presence, style, and location.

5. Embellishments including flourishes, ornamentation, rubrics, and underscores.

6. Legibility or Writing Quality. Ease of recognition of letter or adherence to copybook
form.

7. Line Continuity. The presence/ absence of pen stops, pen lifts, or retracings.

8. Line Quality. The degree of regularity (i.e., smoothness and /or gradation) to the writing
stroke as is judged from the consistency of its nature and of its path in a prescribed
direction. It varies from smooth and controlled to tremulous and erratic.

9. Pen Control
• Pen Hold
• Pen Position
• Point Load (pen pressure)
to be considered if and when determinable.
Evidenced by shading, greater deposition of ink or graphite or by the depression of the paper, called rhythm, or fluency or a flowing hand when it materializes as a harmonious and graduated recurrence.

Absolute – occurring in all writing.

Relative – greater or lesser in some strokes.

10. Writing Movement
• Variants in the predominating action of the writing instrument. May be three-
dimensional.
• Observed in letter formation and Interword connections that may be:
Garlanded – anticlockwise movements predominate.
Arched – clockwise movements predominate.
Angular – straight lines take precedence to curves.
Indeterminable


Attributes of All Writing Habits

Consistency or Natural Variation
The precision with which the habits are executed on repeated occasions.

Persistency
The frequency with which a given habit occurs when the occasion permits.

Combinations Writing Habits

Lateral Expansion
➢ Ranges from contracted to expand.
➢ The product of spacing and letter formation.

Word Proportions
➢ Vertical dimension versus horizontal dimension.
➢ The product of size and spacing.
Classification style
1. The classification of inherent characteristics of handwriting, e.g., skill, letter forms, etc.
2. The classification of variations in the arrangement of handwriting on a document,
particularly the manner of completing a cheque form, sometimes referred to as the completion method.There are nine aspects according to Angst and Erismann (1972) in Zurich kantonpolizei laboratory;
• Writing skill
• Line quality
• Slope
• Size
• Width (lateral expansion)
• Angularity
• Type and degree of connection
• Position of diacritics
• Construction of cursive and block letters
Another measurement of handwriting analysis given by Allan, Pearson, and Brown (1978)
➢ The number of lines taken to write a passage
➢ The margin widths
➢ The paragraph indention
➢ The length of the last 10 spaces
➢ The length of last 11 words and spaces
➢ The length of first 10 spaces
➢ The length of the first 11 words and spaces
➢ The ratio of relative heights of letters with ascenders
Ansell, (1979) reviewed a number of the classification programs developed to that point,
including unpublished work that he conducted with H. Prichard at the metropolitan police
forensic science laboratory in London. There are 18 parameters use for classify the samples
of block lettering from 134 subjects, that was successful in discriminating between all but
three pairs of subjects. The 18 parameters are summarized as concerning:

The design and shape of the “A”.
The commencement of the “A”, “B”, “D”, and other letters.
The termination of the “G”.
The number of strokes in the constructions of the “K”.
The centers of the “M” and “W” (long or short).
The termination of the “U”.


McCarthy (1981), in three case illustrations, reiterates what others had said, that asynchronous writings display:


Greater variation:

In writing styles
In arrangement or location of written material
In the use and manner of abbreviations
In methods of record production
In writing angles and in pen pressures
In writing inks, instruments and pen performance
Less evidence of progression in left hand margins
Less evidence of prior knowledge of text to be written
Less or no evidence of relatable indentations on pages behind or (in page
substitutions) from pages above.


Foley (1987), classify another measurement:

The writing instruments
The writing positions
The writing media (pen or pencil and paper)
The paper position relative to the writer
The writing spaces


On the other hand, internal influences should include:

The writer’s state of mind
The writer’s state of health
The formality and informality
The level of trauma and pleasure
The writer’s state of intoxication or psychosis.
Factors affecting handwriting characteristics

Extrinsic:
Physiological constraints, circumstantial, literacy and education, imitations, surface and
texture of writing surface, type of pen, physical environment, etc.

Intrinsic:
Physical health, mental health, temporal states (alcohol, drugs, and hypnosis), genetic
factors, etc.
Handwriting can also be affected by other factors – injury, illness, medication, drug or
alcohol use, stress, the writing surface, the writing instrument, or attempt disguise. It is the
job of the document examiner to understand these factors as they might relate to a specific
situation. Our aim is to understand the relationship between mental status of an individual
and his or her handwriting.


Initial acquisition of personal characteristics
– Acquisition of slope: Once the guidelines in the copy book have been left behind, the differences in the writing of the pupils become more marked because, for the first time, the slope of the writing has to be controlled whilst the later are being outlined. Some find little difficulty in establishing a reasonably constant slope, whilst others find this beyond their capacity and produce unevenly sloped handwriting to the end of their days.
– The size of handwriting: Those who are likely to become good writers experience little difficulty in controlling both the absolute and the relative sizes of their letters, but others, generally those who show lack of skill in pen control, will exhibit a marked lack of consistency in both respects.
This variation in the relative sizes of letters and parts of letter plays such an important part in the comparison of handwriting that it will be considered in some detail.
– Letter design: Handwriting has slowly developed over the ages; the Romans for simplicity in cutting into stone designed the original forms of letters from which most Western alphabets have been developed. Whilst the original letters designed were well adapted to their medium, there is little doubt that the modern connected cursive handwriting into which they have been modified has little to recommend it for speed
of writing. This becomes patent hen its letter formations are compared with the corresponding outlines, which form the basis of any modern system of shorthand.
Shorthand letter outlines have been designed to ensure that, as far as is practicable; the
writing-point travels in a forward motion reduced to a minimum.
On the other hand, handwriting bristles with formations, which not only halt the forward
motion of the pen, but also actually demand the reversal of its motion to form the retraces,
which are an essential feature of many letter designs.
It is consequently not surprising that when the pupil sets out to apply his newly acquired
handwriting to practical purposes. Designs and the modifications of others, with the object of
both speeding and easing the production of the written script.
This means that once handwriting is used for practical purposes, gross deviations from the
copybook letter designs are introduced to add to the lapses from perfection already present.
Generally speaking, about forty letter designs are in regular use, and as most people have
their own methods of simplifying and speeding, they’re writing, it is apparent that there is
considerable scope for variations in handwriting, solely from the point of view of letter
design.
The significance of variations between writers
All of these considerations, in addition to overall factors such as size, slope, line
quality, and smoothness of curvature, provide an enormous potential to separate the block
capital and cursive writings of one person from those of another. What makes this possible is
the fact that with so many variables available in every letter, and so many letters available for
comparison between the writings of any two people, there is no practical possibility that one
will resemble in other every respect. Of course, such a coincidence is in theory possible, but
to encounter it in practice can safely be discounted. However, this states the ideal position
and refers to writings of a person as a whole. To say, then, that any one individual has a
uniquely personal method of writing may be true, but to say that every piece of writing made
by that person could not be matched by another person is not. How true this is for any one
piece of writing depends upon the amount of material present and how unusual it
is. Provided that a sufficient amount of material is present, the combination of features used
by one person in his or her writing will be sufficiently different from the combination of
features of any other person for any chance match to be found. If the amount of writing is
smaller, the probability of coincidental match will be greater. Other by the number of dots,
between one and three, above or below a feature common to all of them. There is, however,a difference between the same letters written at the beginning, at the end, or in the middle of
the word, so a large amount of comparable material is available in most writing.
Pattern recognition techniques
The development of methods to read handwriting by machine has led to application
of these techniques to distinguish between the writings of different people. Computer based
pattern recognition methods are extremely complicated, requiring specialist knowledge in a
rather obscure field. Heights of upper loop and the areas within them can be compared,
measured and data provided. Similarly, areas within circular letter and angularity can be
calculated.
These methods have not yet entered the area of forensic documents examination to
any extent. It appears that they will provide a method of retrieval of a similar writing from a
large number of samples in a collection; in Germany this has already begun. In the United
Kingdom, research has been carried out into the use of such methods to authenticate
signatures at points of sale. It seems unlikely that evidence in courts of law will be based on
pattern recognition techniques anytime soon, if ever.
© 2020: alinory KWENA, CFIP.

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