I'm not very clear about the details, but i understand that there was increasing discontent in the birmingham Laboratory because of the pressures towards privatisation. They were extremely over-worked, with a three-month backlog of cases waiting to be worked on, and working conditions kept getting worse and worse. At the same time they were conscious that the independent experts were leading rather good lives: they were free of any kind of pressure from above, and they could choose to spend their time as they wanted. So there was always a steady leakage of experts from the public sector to the private sector, until finally the entire birmingham Laboratory became so discontented that they emigrated en masse to become resume independent experts. Now, previous to this, the situation was that all prosecution work was done by salaried experts, and all defence work, together with all work in civil cases, was done by independent experts. There was some point to this, because there is no quality control system for independent experts: the only test is the trial in court. Whereas salaried experts are subject to strict quality controls. When the members of the birmingham Lab went private the police had no choice but to go on taking their document problems to them, and so for the first time employed private experts to do police work on a large scale. So, let me repeat: there are no quality controls on independent experts.
The second laboratory is the document Section of the metropolitan Police forensic Science laboratory. 'metropolitan' means London: this laboratory, which is actually an arm of the police force, deals with any document-related crime committed in London, and works essay only for the police. Finally, there is the document Section of the home Office forensic Science laboratory. This laboratory, which is situated in Birmingham, Britain's second largest city, which happens to be where i work too, is funded by the government, but it is not part of the police force. In principle its expertise is available to anyone, prosecution or defence, but in practice it is only used by the police, and deals with all document problems in the uk that happen outside london. Or, at least, this was true until five years ago. Five years ago there was a revolution.
These salaried experts work in three institutions. Firstly, a laboratory in London known as the laboratory of the government Chemist. This is specialised, since it mainly deals with two classes of item. One is Customs and Excise, which means broadly speaking cases to do with smuggling, for instance the handwriting on a parcel that has been intercepted and found to have drugs in it, or correspondence relating to smuggling drugs. The second is Social Security matters. Social Security is our word for the money paid by the state to support those who are out of work. This money is paid by cheque through the post, and these cheques are commonly intercepted and cashed with forged signatures.
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The teddy expert's reports will be exchanged; if they agree, then one side will either give in or, if it feels it can continue, will present its case and attempt to cast doubt on the expert's opinion by cross-examination. This case will of course be much weakened if the knowledge that their expert actually agrees with the opposition expert is known to the opposition, so quite often it is the practice for one side to hide the fact that it is employing an expert. If the experts disagree, they are not allowed to discuss the case to find out why they disagree; this is actually illegal. They must fight it out in court. Many people regard this as a waste of time and money, but the situation has not been changed yet, though it may.
So each expert stands up and presents his or her evidence, and is cross-examined by the opposition barrister, who usually has the help of the other expert sitting behind him and feeding him with nasty questions to ask the expert standing. I'll go into more detail about the way in which evidence is actually presented in court at a later point. So you see the contestatory spirit is actually very deeply engrained in the English judicial system; even though experts are normally telling the truth as best they can, they are, if they disagree, made to fight, like gladiators. And, until about five years ago, there were two kinds of experts: those who normally acted for the prosecution, and those who acted for the defence. In the last five years this has changed, because of privatisation, so a better classification of the two kinds of experts would now be: those experts who are paid a salary by the State, irrespective of their case-work, and those who earn money. I will call them salaried experts and independent experts.
The lawyers who prepare the case are known as solicitors; the lawyers who actually argue it in court are called barristers. There are two kinds of case: criminal, and civil. Criminal cases deal with crimes (obviously). All criminal investigation is done by the police: they examine the crime scene, interview witnesses and suspects, gather evidence, and make an arrest. If they feel there is a need for forensic investigation of whatever kind they call in a forensic scientist, or send data (including documents) to a laboratory. The scientists make a report (I will describe these reports in detail later which is returned to the police.
The police add this report to the evidence, which they present to the Prosecuting Solicitors, who are paid by the state. The Prosecuting Solicitors decide whether to prosecute or not; if they decide to go ahead then they will appoint a barrister to argue the case for them. Small crimes are tried before magistrates; large crimes are tried before a judge and jury, though anyone has the right to 'go to jury' if they don't want to be tried in a magistrate's court. Civil cases, of course, are those where no crime is committed and the police are not involved, but there is a disagreement that two sides have taken to law to have resolved. In that case two sets of private solicitors are hired; they present arguments to each other, and if they can't agree then they hire barristers to argue the case in court and a judge decides the outcome. If either side feels the need for forensic evidence then they can hire a private expert to do the work and present a report. Because of the contestatory nature of the system, each side will hire an expert, whether the case is criminal or civil.
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The question now is, where is twist it done in the uk and who does it? First you must understand the English legal system. I will assume that you know as little about it as I do about the czech system; i am sure that this is not true, and if it is not, i apologise. I should also add that there is another reason why what follows is a very simplified account: ignorance. I am not a lawyer, and what i know of the system is what I have picked up here and there. The English legal system is contestatory: it is an argument, just like the parliamentary system of government, between different sides. When a case is contested each side takes up a position and defends it, and attacks the other side; the result is always overseen by a judge or a magistrate, who acts as a very powerful referee. The result is either decided by a jury of 12 people, taken at random, or by the judge, or judges, or magistrates.
The object of study of this discipline is handwriting; or, rather, hand-written documents. And these documents can be defined as reviews those which are suspected of telling lies, or at least concealing the truth, about themselves. Essentially forensic handwriting analysis is based on a belief: that given enough evidence, if you examine two pieces of handwriting, you can tell whether it was written by the same person or not. In other words, that is is possible to use handwriting for purposes of identification, just as we can identify faces, or fingerprints, or teeth. There is, however, a difference. Handwriting of a given individual can vary, or it can be made to vary, much more than normally happens to faces or fingerprints or teeth. It can vary because illness, for instance arthritis, or psychological causes, for instance stress; and it can be made to vary because the writer is disguising it, thus making it not resemble his or her normal hand, or because of forgery, where the writer not. Forensic handwriting experts would claim that, given enough material, they can distinguish between forged and genuine writings, and in many cases penetrate disguise to identify the concealed writer. So, that is what we do, and i am sure that it is obvious to you, because it is what you do too.
particularly, who made it happen. Handwriting is unusual because the trace of the crime, the ink line, is also the crime itself. There are two quite distinct areas within document analysis. The first involves the use of hardware, for analysing ink, paper and so on; the second involves the visual examination of handwriting in order to establish the identity of the writer. My own expertise is not in the use of hardware, but in the other aspect of document analysis: the study of handwriting itself. I study is the significance for identification of the handwritten lines; their shapes, and what we call in English the 'line quality the fine detail of the line that is some indication of the speed at which it has been written. This discipline we call 'forensic handwriting analysis'.
Birmingham in 1974 did I switch to the study of handwriting from (I hope) a scientific point of view. I will explain to you how I came to be studying forensic handwriting analysis in the course of this paper; but I thought that the most helpful thing I could do for you was mom to put my small part in handwriting analysis in the context. In order to do this, because my first study is poetry, i will organise this talk along lines suggested by a poem by an English writer, rudyard Kipling. He wrote: i keep six honest serving-men (They taught me all i knew Their names are What and Why and When, And How and Where and Who. So first I will deal with What forensic handwriting analysis is; then I will talk about Where it is done in the uk, and by Whom; next I will talk about the history of it (ie when it was done and then How an actual. Finally, i will talk about Why: why we do handwriting analysis, and why we do research into. What is the subject that we will discuss here? Well, it is handwriting as it relates to identification.
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Forensic handwriting analysis in the. This paper was originally delivered at the Criminalistic Institute trunk in Prague, in 1993, by invitation. It is a great honour to come to this famous and beautiful city and to talk to an audience of forensic scientists. The more so because there is no doubt in my mind that all of you know more about science than. I teach in at the University of Birmingham is the department of English. Literature, and what we do there most of the time is study novels and poetry and plays. My training is in that study, and only after I got the job.