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Catching criminals by their loops and curls

For Dr. Atul Singla, a Ph.d in forensic document examination, the toughest part of his job is convincing people it’s for real.

For Dr. Atul Singla, a Ph.d in forensic document examination, the toughest part
of his job is convincing people it’s for real.

“We have to convince the
laypersons that it’s not just guesswork; it’s a science and it’s based on
scientific principles just like the other sciences,” he said from his
Scarborough office.

The handwriting identification expert, born in the
Patiala District of Punjab, India, has practised the science for the past 25
years, mostly in his home country.

He moved his business, Worldwide Forensic
Services Inc., to Canada in 2005.

Unlike other industries, his business is
booming and one of his clients even suggested it might grow as a result of the
enduring recession.

“She said, ‘Dr. Singla, you’re going to be busy,’ and she
said, ‘you’ll see, because of the recession there will be more forgeries and
frauds,’” the soft-spoken doctor said with a chuckle.

“I’m not sure,” he
said. “And I don’t want people making frauds or forgeries – not for my
sake.”

While most of his work revolves around civil cases or insurance
claims, he has been called upon to help solve murder, assault and sexual assault
cases.

In any case, he said, the work is time consuming and
meticulous.

“We have to examine the minute details such as writing pressure
and the angle of the writing and shading,” he said.

There are many factors
the handwriting identification expert must take into consideration when
comparing signatures or writing, he said.

“The range of variation due to the
environment and external factors such as the age of the writer, their writing
position, writing instrument, health conditions of the writer and alcohol
consumption,” he said.

A second challenge in his work is convincing clients
that real-life document examination is different from how it’s portrayed on
popular crime shows like CSI.

“They say, ‘Oh I’ve seen it in CSI, it’s so
easy and why are you taking so much time and why are you asking for more
specimens of writing and so many signatures?’” he said.

“We have to tell them
this is not CSI.”

Singla knew from the age of eight, after devouring dozens
of Sherlock Holmes novels, he wanted to be a forensic scientist.

He studied
the discipline at Punjabi University, went on to do his master’s in forensics
and finally, completed his doctorate with a specialization in the effect of
heredity and environment on handwriting.

He said he’s likely one of the only
handwriting analysis experts in the country with a doctorate because Canada’s
highest formal recognition in forensics is a bachelor’s degree.

Singla says
business is good because there aren’t many others in the city, or even the
country, with his qualifications.

But with advancements in technology and the
paperless office, he doesn’t expect there will be many future openings in his
field.

Nonetheless, the affable doctor loves his job and plans to stick with
it.

He says he feels rewarded for his work every time it leads to justice,
especially when a disadvantaged person has been well served.

“I’m so happy at
that time,” he said.

 
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