You may have heard about a handwriting expert but not really understand what they do, or perhaps you have never come across one but may be in need of their services. This article aims to explain what forensic handwriting experts do and the situations in which you might require their expertise, to make sure that you can get the support you need if you ever find yourself in the situation of needing to prove that your signature has been forged, or determine the author of a malicious letter.

What does a handwriting expert do?

Handwriting experts specialise in the forensic examination of handwriting and signatures. Having undertaken specialist training at a forensic laboratory and using industry-specific equipment and techniques such as a stereo microscope and equipment to examine indented impressions, they can compare handwriting, signatures and inks to determine whether two documents were written or signed by the same person.

They will examine and compare elements of handwriting styles, such as strokes and pen lifts, as well as looking for any indications that might suggest the writing is not a natural style.

How do you choose a forensic handwriting expert?

Whether you are an individual needing to prove the validity of a document or a solicitor working on behalf of your client, it is important that you choose a suitably qualified and experienced forensic handwriting expert in order to reach the most accurate conclusion. When searching for an expert, take a moment to consider:

  • Their qualifications – it is recommended that you choose a provider who has completed at least two years extensive training at a recognised forensic laboratory.
  • Their experience – searching online will yield lots of results for handwriting experts but it is advisable to check what cases your preferred provider has worked on previously, looking for those with experience of giving evidence in criminal and civil cases and who are happy to complete court compliant reports.

It’s also important to be wary of anyone who has completed their qualifications by distance learning, as this does not give the necessary level of forensic experience. Look out also for those promoting unnecessary letters or memberships, as these often don’t indicate either their education or experience in the industry. 

What resources do you need to provide?

If you are worried that your signature has been forged or you want to determine the authorship of a document, you will need to provide your chosen handwriting expert with some specimen documents or signatures written by the person in question. In order to help them reach the most accurate conclusion, it is best if these can be original documents rather than copies, though most experts will accept good quality copies in this increasingly digital age.

The specimens you will need to provide should include documents or signatures that the individual has completed in the course of everyday life such as:

  • Signatures – passport, driving licence, bank cards, store cards, cheques, company reports or tenancy agreements.
  • Documents – handwritten letters, business plans or reports, greeting cards, diaries, address books or educational documents such as college/university assignments

It is important that the specimen documents you provide were written at around the same time as the disputed writing, as people can change their handwriting style over time, particularly if they are young or elderly.

If you are sending items in the post for handwriting analysis it’s a good idea to send these recorded or special delivery so they can be tracked and signed for at the other end, helping to protect important documents and potential evidence from going astray. 

Hopefully, with the services of a forensic expert, you will be able to determine who has written or signed the document in question and this will enable you to get closure in an ongoing dispute or provide much needed evidence in a court case.

Cosslett and Barr are handwriting experts, specialising in handwriting and signature examinations for legal professionals or members of the public. They are based in Solihull in the West Midlands but can undertake work worldwide.  For more information on their services please visit https://cosslettandbarr.co.uk/

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