By Avril Eyewu-Edero
The word ‘Forensic’ is a Latin word which means suitable for court. In clearer terms, it implies that the investigation evidence can be presented in court in a legal proceeding.
Forensic Science means to investigate using scientific techniques and methods for presentation in court.
Forensic Science covers a wide variety of investigations such as death investigation, in which various scientific methods or techniques can be used, such as Autopsy (to determine the cause and time of death), DNA Analysis (to determine the identity of the deceased and possibly the perpetrator of the crime. If it is a murder), Fingerprint Analysis (to determine the possible perpetrator of the crime), Crime Scene Investigation/Reconstruction (to gather evidence of the crime and to understand what happened at the crime), Forensic Toxicology (to determine if any drug or poison was involved in the death), Forensic Odontology (to determine the identity of the deceased or bite mark from a possible perpetrator) and Ballistics analysis (to link a bullet from the scene to a possible owner or perpetrator). The method or technique used in the death investigation would depend on the case and circumstances if it can be established.
Likewise, In the investigation of a knife crime, scientific methods and techniques that could be used include Tool mark Analysis (to ascertain the weapon involved in the crime), Fingerprint Analysis and DNA Analysis
These evidences would be analyzed using scientific methods in a laboratory and the result from the analysis would be presented in court by the Forensic Expert witness that carried out the analysis to help in the case establishment.
On the other hand, Forensic Accounting is the examination of data to determine the trail of missing money and how it can be recovered using techniques such as accounting, auditing and investigative skills (such as interviews, background checks etc.). This would not require laboratory or scientific process.
However, Forensic Scientist can support Forensic Accountants using techniques for example Document Analysis (for handwriting comparison, ink comparison, dating of documents and more) and Fingerprint analysis (to determine who came in contact with the document) when required.
The document examiner is a Forensic Expert that can assist in an accounting fraud investigation and become part of the expert witness in court independent of the Accounting process.
Forensic Scientists are not Forensic Accountants and cannot handle core Forensic Accounting skills such as Audits and Accounting.
Also, Forensic Accountants are not Forensic Scientist as they are not trained to handle scientific methods of Investigation.
The only aspect that is similar is the word ‘Forensic’ which entails that they can present their evidence in court as an expert. Forensic Accountants are specially trained to present Accounting evidence in court and Forensic Scientists are trained to present Scientific evidence in court.
It is important that we understand these two concepts, so we can differentiate their uniqueness as separate fields to protect the integrity of both professions.