The prevalence of reproduction devices and the advent of the digital age have resulted in an ever- increasing number of reproduced documents, instead of their originals being submitted for forensic examinations.
Forensic document examiners generally request for original documents to be submitted for analysis, as the details of certain features of the handwriting or signature may not be observable or shown adequately in copies. However, this does not imply that the examiners cannot make meaningful examinations and comparisons to determine authorship from reproduced documents.
Scientific studies have reported that forensic examiners are able to make accurate observations on authorship of reproduced handwriting and signatures. The crux lies in the caveat that the copies must not be of poor quality, and the examiner must exercise care and caution in examining such documents. With high-quality or even average-quality reproduced documents, the sequence of strokes and some subtle details, as well as line quality characteristics may be identified.
Quality of a Copy
The quality of a reproduced copy depends on the type of reproduction process, the technology used and the settings of the reproduction device. Although a high-quality photograph can record details in a signature, the image of the signature may appear distorted if the photograph was not properly taken. Scanning a document will mitigate this perspective issue. Hence, our experts generally recommend scanning as the method of choice to our clients. A good quality scan can be achieved when the original document is scanned in colour mode, at a resolution of at least 300 ppi.
Poor quality documents such as multi-generation photocopies or low resolution scan or facsimile copies often limits the conclusion of the report. The evidence may be inconclusive when there are insufficient observable details for comparison. On the other hand, a high-quality copy of the handwritten entries will show general features and most of the fine and subtle details that can be observed in the original document.
Here are some tips on providing better quality reproduced documents for forensic examinations:
|Tip 1: The earliest generation reproduced copy will provide the best possible details for examination.
Tip 2: A first generation photocopy is often better than a low-resolution scanned image.
Tip 3: Colour scans are better than black-and-white scans of the same resolution.
For example, if you have a photocopy of the disputed document, submit that photocopy (“A1”) to your expert.
- Do not scan and email the PDF copy of “A1” to your expert.
- Do not photocopy “A1” and submit this second generation photocopy to your expert.
- Similarly, the “Certified True Copy” should be submitted, not its reproduction.