Steven Dale

Steven Dale

Consultant Forensic Document & Handwriting Examiner

Mr Steven Dale has been conducting forensic examinations of documents, handwriting and signatures for 47 years. He was a Forensic Document Examiner with Tasmania Police for 29 years, from 1973 to 2002. He was in charge of their Document Examination Section between 1978 and 2002, being responsible for all that Section’s Forensic Document Examination and subsequent reports, their court-room presentation, and training of other examiners. He was originally trained by the former Document Examiner in Charge of that Section.

His formal training included case-work attachments with the Document Examination Section of Australian Federal Police in Sydney, and the Document Examination Section of the New South Wales Police. Subsequent cases included court appearances with senior document examiners from the State Forensic Science Laboratory of Victoria. He has studied the required textbooks, and passed extensive examinations on the relevant subjects within the broad field of Forensic Document Examination. His opinions and judgement have been periodically subjected to independent assessment through proficiency tests in both Forensic Document and Handwriting Examination.

Mr Dale’s increasing participation in private-practice civil document cases, led him to conclude the government laboratory phase of his Document Examination career in 2002, to concentrate on developing his private practice throughout Australia.

In cases involving the examination of documents, he has been accepted as an expert witness, and presented evidence of examination of documents, and given opinions on numerous occasions in various courts throughout Australia. Mr Dale has been engaged to perform examinations for legal practitioners, civil parties, financial institutions, professional tribunals, police forces across Australia and the Asia Pacific regions, Public Prosecutors, government and private investigators, boards of enquiry of State and Commonwealth jurisdictions, private individuals and for media investigations.

Mr Dale is the former President of the Australian Society of Forensic Document Examiners (ASFDE). He has over many years, attended their ‘Training Workshop Programs’, presenting many papers on his document examination works, while also learning from leading Australian and international forensic document examiners. Mr Dale is a member of the Australian & New Zealand Forensic Science Society (ANZFSS). He is a former member of the Specialist Advisory Group (SAG) of the Senior Managers of Australian & New Zealand Forensic Laboratories (SMANZFL), the Forensic Science Society (FSS), UK and the International Association for Identification (IAI).

For over 20 years he has been a part-time lecturer on the subject of Forensic Document Examination for T.A.F.E. College Forensic Courses and was a university lecturer on the same subject matter.

His decades of document examinations have included:

  • The discovery and illustration of methods used in a variety of fraudulently altered documents, which may lead to or involve legal proceedings;
  • The revelation of the origins and sequence of writings or changes upon questioned documents by treating for latent indentations from previously overlying pages or from overwriting impressions from pad or book pages;
  • Using scientific techniques to partially restore banknotes, cheques, or evidential documents damaged by fires or by exposure to the elements;
  • Restoring the text upon documents which had been torn or mutilated, shredded, or exposed to chemicals; and
  • The recovery of typed texts by means of examination of their machines’ typewriter ribbons, while over the years comparing and attempting to identify a procession of various machine-generated type-styles and computer fonts.

However the bulk of Steven’s work still involves both signature and handwriting examination, and comparison.

One interesting multi-skilled police task with a steep learning-curve for Steven in his early document examination days, was to dive, search for, and recover documents from inside the murky depths of the ship-wreck of the “Lake Illawarra”, which had demolished a section of Hobart’s Tasman Bridge. Then came the painstaking restoration of the oily paper roll that was the recovered ship’s Automatic Log, as evidence for the investigations which followed.

Since early in his career he has maintained a comprehensive extra-curricular study of “Unusual formations and characteristics in handwriting”. Steven considers this to be an extremely interesting process, and a valuable source of reference. Such study involves assessing the identification value of features of one’s writing, and their subtle variations in letter and numeral formations, and writing habits. He has found this practice develops the trained eye in the appreciation of fine detail. 

It is this combination of a writer’s unusual formations, their variations and writing habits, which makes most writings unique. Therefore the writer’s signature can be authenticated or otherwise, or the writer of an anonymous note may be identified through that writing’s similarity to the known samples of a particular writer. Also, a forgery of another person’s writing will usually exhibit deficiencies in one category or another. The deficiencies can then be clearly demonstrated through the evidence of the Forensic Document Examiner.