Character References for Court – Who can provide them and what should they say?

Character references can be provided to the court at sentencing hearings. They can tell the Presiding Magistrate or Presiding Judge that despite you being convicted of the current offence, that you are still considered to be of good character

This can be useful in assisting the Magistrate or Judge with what penalty should be imposed at your sentencing hearing.
They are also particularly useful if you are applying for a spent conviction.

You should aim to get about 3-5 references from various people who know you well, and who know about the charge(s) you are in court for. 

Who can provide a character reference?

Anyone who knows you well can provide a character reference, but you should aim to get them from a variety of people rather than just your family and close friends.
It is also helpful to have character references from someone who has some standing in the community and who is well respected. 
Examples of people who can provide character references:

  1. Family members;
  2. Partner;
  3. Friends;
  4. Employers;
  5. Colleagues;
  6. Teachers;
  7. Coaches;
  8. Religious leaders;
  9. Family friends; and
  10. Neighbours.

What should the reference say?

 

  1. Character references should include the following:
  2. The full name and contact details of the writer;
  3. How the writer knows you, and for how long they have known you for;
  4. Acknowledge that they know of the charge(s);
  5. Confirm that they consider you to be of good character, and whether this offending is out of character for you;
  6. Confirm whether knowing about the charge(s) has had any impact on the writer’s opinion of you; 
  7. If the writer considers that you are remorseful about the offending, and/or accepting of responsibility for the offending, and/or have taken steps towards rehabilitation, then that can be included; and
  8. Can include any personal recounts of particular events which show that you are of good character.

All character references need to be signed by the writer and dated.
The character reference needs to be in the writer’s own words and be truthful. In rare circumstances, the court may contact the writer to verify the contents of the character reference.
Character references should be typed up (preferable) or neatly written on A4 paper, and be addressed to the Presiding Magistrate or Presiding Judge of whichever court you will be appearing in for your sentencing. They do not need to be longer than one page.
If you are legally represented, you should send a copy of the references to your lawyer before court, so that they can review them, and ensure that they are suitable to be used.

What should not be included in a character reference?

There are also things that should not be included in character references, namely:

  1. Any opinions about the law;
  2. Expressing views about why you are not guilty or did not commit the offence(s);
  3. Trying to explain or justify why you may have committed the offence(s); and
  4. Suggesting what penalty you should receive. 
     
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