Documents and Handwriting

Within forensic services the Documents and Handwriting section offers a national service examining all forms of documentation for the Police Service of Scotland and other law enforcement agencies.


This section can find itself examining a wide range of items as a ‘document' can be classed as any item which has writing on it  which has included walls, lift doors and occasionally bodies.


The work of the section can be split into two kinds:


- Inceptive analysis - providing intelligence for the investigating officers in identifying suspects
- Evidential - the results of such examinations will provide evidence for trial.


The documents and handwriting section can be involved in all crime types. Principally you might expect them to get involved in cases of fraud, embezzlement and counterfeiting, but they can help solve any crime where writing, typewriting and printing are featured and this can include murder, breach of the peace, terrorism, assaults, abduction, drugs cases and missing persons.


Here are some cases which show how the documents and handwriting scientists had a hand to play in solving the crime:


Race Hate crime


For a period of six years various items of racial motivated hate mail were sent to various prominent individuals, including MPs and business men. As a result of the work undertaken by the Documents and Handwriting Section an individual, who had not been involved in previous crime was identified for writing and sending these letters.


Lockerbie Enquiry


The documents and handwriting section was involved in the Lockerbie bombing investigation.  They carried out a number of examinations on a range of documents from embarkation/disembarkation cards, hotel registration forms, passports and diaries. The evidence of the forensic scientists proved to be "one of the most valuable evidential tools".


Operation Esparato 


Operation Esparato was a joint investigation between the forensic laboratory, Strathclyde Police and British Transport Police.

Scotrail received a threatening letter from someone claiming to be one of their drivers. The author of the letter threatened to kill his wife and drive his train into a head on crash unless he received £23,000 in cash.

At the time this was considered a serious and genuine threat. The documents and handwriting section carried out an analysis the handwriting of a large number of Scotrail employees (over 900) who had the potential to carry out the threat.  As a result of the analysis it was agreed that the threat was likely to be a hoax and the threat was never carried out.