What is Forensics?
‘Forensics’ is a broad classification. It entails the application of scientific knowledge and methodology to the analysis of evidence in legal matters. The English noun has its etymology in the Latin word ‘forensis’, meaning “of or before the forum”, which helps explain its function in the law today.
What Is Forensic Science
When a dispute arises over an aspect of evidence, such as samples of handwriting, fingerprints, DNA, digital hardware or something else, the court and the parties involved aren’t necessarily able to interpret the evidence accurately. They therefore require experts to comment on what the evidence actually means so it can be considered in its true context.
In practical terms, forensic science involves the analysis of information in a controlled manner so that, taking into account the objectives of the investigation, analysis carried out by an independent but similarly-qualified expert would ideally yield an identical outcome.
The Role of Forensic Experts
Forensic experts (scientists or investigators) are educated and/or experienced in specialised areas of forensic science. A forensic expert may be appointed by either the parties in a dispute or by the court itself, depending on the matter, but his or her primary obligations is always to the court so as to ensure objectivity. If presented with the same data and instructions, two different forensic experts should ideally arrive at the same conclusion however, not all areas of forensic analysis are entirely objective so grey areas can arise. An opinion about the authorship of handwriting, for example, is not a definitive, binary judgement. It is an opinion on the part of the expert about the most likely proposition. In digital forensics, on the other hand, it might be possible for an expert to definitively make a pronouncement based on indisputable evidence. For example, an expert may be able to say that an email was sent from a particular email account, accessed on a particular device at a specified time and place.
During investigations, in both the criminal and civil spheres evidence is carefully collected from crime scenes, people, documents, places of interest and other sources, such as digital devices. Evidence is then typically sent to a forensic laboratory or investigation firm for analysis. Forensic experts apply certain sciences in their examinations depending on the type of evidence that they are working with and the answers sought by the parties. Biology, for instance, may be applied in the analysis of DNA evidence for the purposes of identifying an unknown individual, while chemistry may be applied to establish the source or chemical composition of a substance. The information age has also expanded the scope of forensics to include digital evidence. Qualified computer technicians are utilised in digital investigations for a range of purposes, including the recovery of data or identifying and tracing the source of a cybercrime in a court-admissible report.
Forensic experts are sometimes required to perform tasks that can extend beyond examining evidence and producing a report. A court can require experts engaged by opposing sides to meet and endeavour to reach agreement about points of contention in a dispute and produce a report together. Experts may also be required to appear in court (whether in person or by audio-visual link) and present testimony. Their testimony must be delivered in a manner that is easily understood by the court, and they must read and abide by the applicable expert witness code of conduct. The Australian Police website provides a list of the roles that forensic experts play in the Australian judicial system in criminal matters. Curated by the National Forensic Science Technology Center in the US, this guide is an informative resource on various types of forensic evidence and their importance to investigations.
Our Forensic Services
As a broad-based investigations and forensics firm, Lyonswood offers a range of services including the provision of forensic investigators. The investigators gather, analyse and interpret evidence for use in a court of law or for the purposes of resolving a personal matter.
Lyonswood provides digital forensic services to individuals, lawyers, businesses and government entities. A computer forensics expert can become necessary in the event of a cybercrime, a data breach or in the case of misconduct by an employee within a business. Standard computer forensics involves the analysis of a hard drive for relevant evidence and the need for this service can also arise in other circumstances, such as in family law disputes. Evidence of online harassment and hacking and spyware/malware can often be examined and detected. Any proper examination of data on a mobile phone or a tablet, conducted to retrieve evidence, prove the existence of malware or for some other purpose, should be performed by an expert in mobile phone forensics. Video analysis and investigations into online scams and IP tracing are matters that our experts can address.
Signature and handwriting analysis can reveal whether a signature is genuine and/or enable the identification of the author of a document. If there is any dispute over the authorship of a document, it will be necessary to utilise an expert as a laymen’s interpretation of handwriting evidence will not be accepted. Disputes over handwriting arise in contract disputes, family law matters, estates matters and instances of criminal forgery.
In addition, Lyonswood provides forensic fingerprint analysis that enables one to determine whether prints are apparent on a document or item and, if necessary, to determine whether there is a match between fingerprints taken from different sources of evidence.
Forensic accounting is an area in which an expert methodically interprets financial information to help resolve corporate disputes, quantify damages in cases of negligence and fraud, as well as provide valuations of businesses for both legal and non-legal purposes at a standard acceptable to the courts.