21 Med. Sci. & L. 1 (1981)

handle is hein.journals/mdsclw21 and id is 1 raw text is: 




Printed in Great Britain Editorial 1


Editorial


Unfortunately  there  is no  modern  fountain
of Acadia1 ; times change and if we in forensic
science are to remain credible we must change
with  these times. There is no single universally
applicable means  by  which  this simple pres-
cription can be  filled; with rapidly advancing
technology  and   man's  intrinsic ingenuity-
especially for the illicit-we face a multiplicity
of complex problems.
   It is almost 25 years (1956) since Hilton2
gave  a general description of a document-a
search of earlier works has not revealed such
wisdom.  In various paraphrased forms Hilton's
description has survived. Currently, an almost
universally accepted form is that 'a document is
any material thing bearing marks which convey
information'. The present writer explained the
elemental  structure as being threefold, viz.:
(i) a base material; (ii) a visual image; and (iii) a
applicator.3
   All stood well until a decision in the Chancery
Division of  the High  Court  'deemed  a tape
recording  to be  a document'.4   A  funda-
mental  and far-reaching question arises there-
from,  need  the  'image' (ante) be  'visible'?
According  to Mr Justice Walton the answer  is
an unequivocal 'no'. The force or implication of
this decision has not yet fully manifested itself;
we  spoke (above) of advancing technology, and
one  aspect of this, which affects almost all of
mankind,  is the much maligned 'computer'. Not
only  do these devices operate at superhuman
speeds, they also 'speak' a different language,
which  is in an inhuman form; i.e. it is neither
conventional writing nor  speech, but requires
translation to be intelligible to humans.
   If a  tape recording  has been  deemed   a
'document'  can  this be  extended  to  other
'records'-cylinders, discs (whether 'floppy' or
otherwise), tapes (which   may  be  sensitized
plastic material), or paper on  (or is it 'in')
which the recorded information is by means of
a series of holes punched from the base material.


The   wide  diversity of  the basic  materials
themselves  coupled  with  their manufactured
forms  is of astronomical proportions, but in
spite of this such 'documents' are in daily use
throughout   the civilized world. Referring to
man's  ingenuity (ante) this is put  to many
nefarious activities and computer records are
not  immune  therefrom.
   In a recent book review Crown5  stated that
document   examiners in the USA  are presently
being requested to examine  computer  records.
Whilst many   examiners have  in the past exa-
mined  'till-rolls' or other machine recordings,
the  thought  of  computer   records in  their
modern  bizarre form is an awesome  one. It is
one  which  Crown  points out  requires know-
ledge of a very different nature from that of the
conventional document  examiner.
   Are we  then to see a new group of workers
in the forensic sciences-those who are able to
examine  computer  records in all their various
and  daunting forms?  The present numerically
exclusive much  harassed examiner  finds con-
siderable difficulty in accommodating even
small increases of calls upon his services-in
conventional matters, the cost of  which is a
constant  problem   especially for  those  in
'private' practice; examination in the areas of
this 'new' technology are out of the question.
   These  'documents'  of this new, to  some,
lucrative technology  could  well  sound  the
knell for some who  for one reason or another
cannot engage in such matters; hopefully it will
peal  out an  introduction  of others to  this
fascinating profession.


REFERENCES
1. Brewer's Dictionary of Phrase and Fable (1874).
2. Hilton 0. (1956) Scientific Examination of Ques-
   tioned Documents. Callaghan & Co., Chicago.
3. Baxter P. G. (1969) Med. Sci. Law 9, No. 1.
4. Times Law Report, 21 February 1974.
5. Crown D. (1980)j. Forens. Sci. 25, No. 2.

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