Is my Examiner Qualified?

Of all the questions that can be asked about a Forensic Document Examiner, the issue of whether or not they are qualified is undoubtedly the most important of all. I have written about it before so you may wish to review the following:

What is hot-tubbing?

Hot tub without people, with water churning.

Hot-tubbing, in this context, is not what the phrase may first bring to mind.

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Where multiple examiners are involved in a case reports will be issued by each person and sometimes those reports will conflict. One way such conflicts can be resolved is commonly called hot-tubbing.

In brief, hot-tubbing is a Court-ordered discussion/debate involving two or more experts, aimed at sorting out critical issues before the forensic evidence is presented to the Court.12 As the Science Manual for Canadian Judges states:

Hot-tubbing originates from Australia, but has since been introduced to countries including Malaysia, Singapore, Hong Kong, Japan, the United States, England and Canada. In Canada, the Federal Court Rules, SOR/98-106, were amended in 2010 to permit hot-tubbing of experts at pre-trial and at trial (see sections 52.6, 282.1 and 282.2 of the Federal Court Rules below).

Science Manual for Canadian Judges, page 160.

What is Evaluative reporting?

Evaluative reporting refers to the expression (written or verbal) of an opinion conforming to the logical approach to evidence evaluation.1

In short:

Evaluative reporting is a formalised thought process that enables the evaluation of scientific findings given two opposing (or competing) propositions. It is a way of providing a strength of the findings of an examination given those alternative propositions.

Ballantyne, K., et al. (2017). An Introductory Guide to Evaluative Reporting, National Institute of Forensic Science Australia New Zealand

NIFS-AU download link:

Another useful reference is the ENFSI Guideline for Evaluative Reporting: Strengthening the Evaluation of Forensic Results across Europe (STEOFRAE) report. It states, in part:

Evaluative reporting evaluates the forensic findings in the light of at least one pair of propositions. It is based on a likelihood ratio and conforms to the principles of evaluation. Most of the time, evaluative reporting will follow from comparative examinations between material of unknown source and reference material from one or more potential source(s) and/or associated activities. An evaluative report is any forensic expert report containing an evaluative reporting section.

Willis, S. M., et al. (2015). ENFSI Guideline for Evaluative Reporting: Strengthening the Evaluation of Forensic Results across Europe (STEOFRAE), European Network of Forensic Science Institutes.

ENFSI download link:

Do Forensic Document Examiners testify in court?

Forensic document examiners have testified as expert witnesses in various courts, and other judicial hearings, for many years. The field was recognized by the courts around the world a very long time ago and, in general, FDE testimony is well-received.

However, as with any type of forensic expertise, the decision to permit an expert to testify in a given court proceeding is made by the judge/adjudicator on a case-by-case basis. The Court must decide whether or not to admit expert evidence based upon a number of factors including the qualifications of the expert, the nature of the evidence, the need to have expert evidence presented and so on.  There are various legal standards (jurisdiction-specific) that must be met so that an examiner can be qualified as an expert and permitted to give testimony.

Check with the examiner to ensure they can fulfill those requirements.