How to write a character reference letter for court

by | Oct 19, 2016 | Criminal Law

If you are appearing in Court for a criminal matter, a character reference can help the Court to appreciate your situation and give context to the reason you committed the offences.

A number of people can provide you with a character reference and they don’t have to know you in a professional capacity. We suggest the following people can give character references to our clients:

  • Any person who knows you well
  • An old family friend
  • An employer
  • Your priest

The layout

A character reference should have a few important features. If it does not, the Court may reject it. Some important points to remember are as follows.

The reference letter:

  • Should be typed in an easy to read font.
  • Must be signed and dated.
  • If from an employee, be on company letterhead and state the person’s job title and any qualifications.
  • Must be addressed to the Presiding Magistrate (if in the Local Court) or the Presiding Judge (if in the District or Supreme Courts).
  • Should commence with ‘Your Honour’.

We are required to give to the Court the original reference letter so it should be handed to us.

What should it say?

The character reference should illustrate your character. The better the person is able to show the Court you have good character, the more help it will be. It should include:

  • How long the person has known you and in what capacity.
  • That they know you have been charged with an offence and state the offence.
  • Whether they have spoken with you about the offence.
  • That they know you have previously been charged with other offences of a similar nature (if applicable).
  • If you have not had offences of a similar nature, that they believe the offences were out of character and why.
  • Whether you have shown remorse for the offence and how you have expressed that to them.
  • Details they know about your background including family, education and employment history.
  • Details they know about any personal problems you may have that may have contributed to the offence being committed. For example, drug or alcohol abuse or psychological problems. They should also state if they know you have taken steps to overcome those problems.
  • Details of any special contributions you have made to society (by volunteering or donating to charity).
  • What hardship you have suffered as a result of committing the offence. For example, losing a job, loss of reputation or, being disgraced by family and friends.
  • If the offence is a driving offence they should also include the reasons why you need a licence and/or the consequences of losing your licence.

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