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How handwriting examination can help determine the authorship of malicious letters

handwriting examination to determine authorship of malicious letters

Whilst we hope it never happens to you, receiving a malicious letter can be very distressing and leave you wondering what to do next. A malicious letter is classed as a written communication that is indecent, offensive, threatening or contains false information. It’s purpose is to cause anxiety for the recipient. Even if the letter is not sent, it is still classed as a malicious communications offence.

In this technological age, you might think anyone wanting to cause distress or offence would use digital channels such as social media or email, however they may consider traditional communication such as letters to be less traceable and enable them to get away with their crime. Thankfully, a handwriting examination can help determine the authorship of malicious letters.

What to do if you receive a malicious letter

If you are in receipt of a malicious letter, the first thing to remember is that this is a crime, and should be reported. We recommend you follow this guidance from the police.

If you are in immediate danger:

  • Call 999

If you are not in immediate danger:

  • Contact the police by using their live chat facility or report the incident online via your local police website

Or

  • Go to your nearest police station to report the crime

If you know the person who sent the letter you will need to be prepared to tell the police how you know the sender and why they might have reason to send you a malicious letter. You should keep the letter and any other evidence linked to the communication, such as emails. Even if you do not know the person who sent the letter, you should still speak to the police and voice your concerns.

Why use a forensic handwriting examiner?

Either off your own back, or as a result of legal proceedings following the report of your malicious letter receipt, your case may be referred to a forensic handwriting examiner. Using sophisticated techniques and their wealth of experience they can carry out a handwriting examination to see if they can determine who wrote the malicious letter.

What does a handwriting examination involve?

The main purpose of a handwriting examination is to determine whether two documents were written by the same person. If you suspect the person who sent you a malicious letter is known to you, then it is quite possible you will also have access to other documents they have written. Perhaps previous letters, work related documents, study documents, diary entries or anything else the person may have written in the course of everyday life.

It is important that the specimens you give to your handwriting examiner are written around the same time as the malicious letter, as if they are much older, the individual’s handwriting style may have changed.  It is also better if the documents are originals rather than photocopies, however good copies may be acceptable if originals are not available.  There also needs to be enough writing to be able to assess the range of variation shown by the writer.  It is not possible to undertake a one-to-one comparison of characters. To summarise, your specimen documents should be:

  • Original documents where possible
  • Written around the same time as the malicious letter
  • Using the same writing style – i.e. uppercase or lower case
  • Contain a reasonable amount of writing

If you are in receipt of a malicious letter and think you know who wrote it, you may benefit from our handwriting examination service. Please get in touch with us on 0121 781 7216 to find out more about this service and what we will require from you.

I have been updated that none of the facts were proved against our member in relation to the allegations raised about the reference. Great news and thank you again for your assistance in this matter

Legal Officer, Sunderland


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