Huber and Headrick (1999) define document examination as the discipline ‘that seeks to determine the history of a document by technical or scientific processes’ which is generally the result of such document’s genuineness being questioned.
Zin & Dintwe (2015, p123) explain questioned documents as ‘any type of document requiring detailed scientific examination of its physical features in offences such as fraud and forgery, or where a person needs to be included or excluded as the author of handwriting.’ Forensic Handwriting Examination is different to and requires different training to Handwriting Analysis for Personality Profiling, which is sometimes referred to as graphology).
Forensic Handwriting Examination as it is presently known largely had its roots in the work of Osborne and Harrison and has developed into a sophisticated field of science, which has come a long way since the 16th century when the English parliament decreed forgery as a criminal offence punishable by death. Unlike in Osborne’s time, the modern forensic handwriting examiner needs to be familiar with the latest printing technologies and software used to generate fraudulent documents. The forensic handwriting examiner needs to be well versed in the mechanics of handwriting, which includes such external factors such as quality of pen and paper, and internal factors such as age, illness etc. The skilled forensic handwriting examiner follows standardised procedures such as those set out by the ASTM standards.