Examination of photocopies, from the aspect of Forensic Document Examination, is problematic, as the “image” of genuine handwriting & signatures can be transferred to a document, with the photocopying process hiding all relevant evidence.
Current image processing technology, combined with the affordability of electronic scanning device (scanners) and color printers, enables the average person to construct fraudulent documents with ease.
On everyday casework of Document Examination laboratories, such fraudulent documents are becoming commonplace.
Unfortunately in 2014 in Greece, Article 1 of Law. 4250/2014 states:
“In Article 1 removes the requirement to submit originals or certified copies of stakeholders throughout their transactions, not only public services but also to fo- carriers as private entities directly or indirectly controlled by the state when it comes to documents issued by the authorities and such bodies. Also, the scope of this article including public services, which are not the purely administrative authorities, such as courts of all grades, Cathedrals, Religious Institutions, Mufti etc ..
Instead of originals or certified of copies, interested parties (citizens and businesses) will present to services and agencies covered by the regulations simple, legible photocopies and then services and these operators are required to carry out random checks on at least five percent (5%) of photocopies submitted annually. The submission of simple, readable photocopies, in an administrative or other proceedings will serve as affirmation position of the citizen or business for the accuracy and truth of the submitted copies will equate ie essentially affirmation of l. 1599/1986. Similarly, the t by a legislative initiative, will be accepted by management and organizations fall into this simple and legible photocopies private or aliens documents provided that these documents (private and foreign) have been validated initially by counsel. Where presentation of false or forged documents, criminal sanctions of Law. 1599/1986 and administrative or other act revoked. It is clear that the proposed provisions are not affected and remain valid, the requirements for submission of public documents with a specific annotation stemming from international conventions of the country (eg the Hague Convention) and other differences government agreement. ”
Understandably, a fraudulent photoshopped may appear as a valid unexamined photocopy without any prior audit, creating problems.
The online new site vima.gr in a current article addresses this vulnerability of the law as well as the awareness of the public sector of the problem that created it.
Characteristically it states: “In the document, entitled” Elimination of prototypes reporting obligations or certified copies of documents submitted to the State (Article 1 of Law. 4250/2014) – Conducting random checks’ states that this kind of spot-checking is not performed to the supporting documents submitted in recruitment / appointment of staff.
This is because the services in accordance with the provisions of article 28 of l. 4305/2014 (Government Gazette 237 / A / 10.31.2014), required prior to the signing of the act of appointment or recruitment of staff appointed / hired, “to conduct without delay, mandatory automatic check of the authenticity “of documents submitted by the candidate and necessary for the appointment / recruitment or necessarily affect its classification in the recruitment process or their rank, remuneration grading after recruitment.”
It is hopeful that the system reacted to this danger, and we hope to increase the control of the documents.
Regarding the copies and their handwriting examination we can mention the following:
During the course of a Handwriting Examination there is the possibility that a document has to be examined in a photocopied (or other) reproduction and not in the original, in order to determine the authenticity or forgery. The copy as a document loses allot of the characteristics of writing, and makes the investigation of authenticity a much more difficult task. The reproduction process involves to stages a. the “reading” of the document from the reproduction machine and b. the reproduction of the document. Both stages are not flawless, and do not represent all of the characteristics of the document that is being reproduced.
The photocopy, depending on the discriminating capability of the photocopying machine, and depending of the generation of the copy (i.e. copy of 1st generation: was created from the original, copy of 2nd generation: was created from the 1st generation copy etc.) degrades the characteristics of handwriting:
· Line quality: Line quality can be distorted or manipulated (in the case of computer scanning & reproduction).
· Writing pressure: The changes of pressure are not distinguished easily. Writings of light pressure can be either reproduced as segmenting lines or do not appear at all.
· Beginning & ending strokes: their form is distorted, which leads to harder appreciation of speed of writing.
· Indentation & Tracing: Indentations & tracings as a general rule, are not reproduced through photocopies.
· Hesitations & retouching: Hesitations & retouching in handwriting can not be discriminated through a photocopy
Furthermore, examination of a photocopy instead of an original document does not allow examination with a series of technical equipment like the ESDA or via Infrared & Ultraviolet radiation, and the microscopic examination has very limited results. After all these, one can understand that there is a multitude of characteristics of forgery that can “hide” themselves in a photocopy.
In cases of digital manipulation or montage, where the method applied was faulty, there is a possibility of detecting elements of forgery. Yet still, absence of such elements dose not consist authenticity of the document. With current advances in digital photography & image processing, it is very easy to construct a fictitious document, and present it as a copy of a non-existing original, without visual proof of forgery.
All of the above oblige the Forensic Handwriting & Document Examiner to treat the examination of a photocopy instead of the original, with posing the question “Does the document whose photocopy I am called to examine, exist?” From that point on any result of authenticity is followed by the condition that the document exist, and as stated above, since alterations are been misrepresented in a photocopy, one can reach a result of very low certainty/ probability.
On the other hand, if there are evident elements of forgery, or when the characteristics of the handwriting or signature that “survive” in the document, are notably different from the specimens, than we can reach a negative conclusion with a high probability.