Document Examination

While the greater part of our forensic document examination work relates to the comparative examination of signatures and handwriting (see Handwriting & Signature Examination), document examination embraces every aspect of determining the genuineness or provenance of a document. 

Other aspects of forensic document examination include:

  • detecting alterations to documents including handwritten additions, text insertions and page substitutions;
  • recovering and deciphering faded, bleached, obliterated and erased writing and printing;
  • reconstructing shredded, torn, charred and other damaged documents;
  • determining the source of anonymous letters, extortion notes, etc;
  • determining whether travel, identity and other security documents are genuine or counterfeit;
  • determining whether or not entries on a document are original or reproduction;
  • determining the method of production of a machine generated document (laser print, inkjet print, photocopy, facsimile or some form of commercial printing method);
  • determining the source and possible date of production of documents generated by various typewriter, printing and reproduction (eg. photocopy) methods;
  • deciphering typewriter ribbons and the possible matching of specific entries to a suspect typewriter ribbon;
  • developing latent writing impressions in documents caused by the act of writing on an overlying sheet of paper (see Examination of Impressions);
  • determining the sequence of impressions and actual writing on the subject document (see Examination of Impressions);
  • determining the relative and, occasionally, absolute time when entries were made (see Sequencing & Relative Dating);
  • determining the likely sequence of line crossings (see Sequencing & Relative Dating);
  • non-destructive examination and comparison of inks and papers using photo-analytical methods (see Paper & Ink Examination);
  • determining the source and possible date of production of rubber stamp impressions (see Examination of Impressions).

Detailed and comprehensive forensic examinations are often multi-faceted and require the application of a combination of scientific methods in order possibly to resolve the issues.  The team at FDS has the benefit of applying its range of forensic techniques and instruments in order to recover any evidence generated in the document and which remains at the time of examination. 

Related case studies: 

Altered medical record

A surgeon was defending a medical malpractice suit and produced three pages of patient medical records in support of his case that he had cautioned the plaintiff patient as to the risks associated with a proposed medical procedure.  The warning appeared on page 2 of the notes.

Cheque alterations & endorsement

Notwithstanding the gradual decline in the use of cheques, the intercepting of cheques between being filled out and being banked (often while in the mail but sometimes by a person on the inside) is an ongoing problem. 

Counterfeit Platinum Certificate

A dispute arose as to the genuineness of certain Platinum Certificates purporting to have been issued by the Union Bank of Switzerland.  The certificates, if genuine, represented a very significant monetary value. 

Counterfeit qualifications

The conduct of a real estate agent was investigated following several complaints against this person.  Certificates of qualification and registration held by the person were submitted to our laboratory as part of the investigation.

Diary entry addition

A case was submitted which required determining whether an entry in a diary that read "Meeting 2pm Signing Wend" (sic) was all written sequentially on the one occasion. 

Employee mistreatment

In an Industrial Relations hearing, an employee was claiming workplace harassment.  As part of the evidence put forward in support of the claim was the employee's diary which included numerous entries purporting to be a record of the occurence of the harassment. 

File notes of telephone discussions

An agent put forward a file note of a record of telephone discussions that had allegedly taken place with the client.

Forged Will bearing genuine testator signature

The image below is part of a disputed Will where FDS was able to determine that, while the signature was genuine, the document as a whole was not.  The printed text was produced after the signature had been written and well after the death of the testator. 

Hospital patient history notes

A patient under care in hospital suffered complications which resulted in permanent health problems.  There was a question raised as to the attention given to

Is it an original stamp?

Many organisations around the world rely on the use of official rubber stamp impressions to authenticate their documents.  The forensic document examiners at FDS undertake examinations of what purport to be original rubber stamp impressions on all manner of documents to make a

Police notebook entry

FDS was requested to examine an entry in a police notebook to ascertain whether or not it was a contemporaneous record of events.  The entry read "request witness protection".

Skull-duggery

By way of example of the variable nature of a document, in this case, FDS was asked to examine a large collection of stolen mammalian skulls that originally contained handwritten codes identifying which species they belonged to.  The thief attempted to physically erase the mus

Who sat the test?

A tertiary educational institution called on the expertise of FDS to determine whether one student had substituted for another student in a series of examinations.  The provision of writing specimens based on assignments submitted by the students concerned led to cheating bein