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The Importance of a Good Character Reference for Court and How to Write a Compelling One

Need to know how to write a character reference for court? We share our recommended structure plus practical tips in our latest blog post.

In Qld court proceedings, a character reference serves as a powerful tool to assist judges and magistrates in their decision-making process. It provides an individual’s opinion of another person’s character and helps the court consider subjective aspects during sentencing. At Guest Lawyers, we recognise the importance of a well-crafted character reference in criminal law matters. In this blog post, we will explore the purpose of a character reference, who can write one, and provide practical tips on how to write a compelling character reference that can positively influence the court’s decision.

What is a Character Reference?

A character reference is a legal document that offers one person’s perspective on another person’s character. It plays a significant role in court proceedings, allowing judges and magistrates to gain insights into the individual’s character when determining an appropriate sentence. By focusing on the subjective features of an individual, such as their positive personality traits, values, and beliefs, a character reference provides a more holistic view of the person beyond the charges they face.

Who Can Write a Character Reference?

Anyone who is familiar with the person can write a character reference. We suggest having a character references drafted by an employer or close friend, or an individual who has a meaningful relationship with the person in question. While family members may be tempted to write a character reference, it is important to note that their inherent bias may undermine the credibility of the reference.

How Do You Write a Character Reference?

To write an effective character reference for court, we suggest using this structure:

1. Personal Details: Begin the reference by providing the personal details of both parties involved.

2. Acknowledgement of Offence: Acknowledge that you are aware of the offence and the circumstances surrounding it. The reference should not be limited to an employment or similar reference, as the court requires a character reference specifically related to the offence.

3. Establish Relationship: Clearly explain the nature of your relationship with the person and the length of time you have known each other. Mention the last time you interacted and any past interactions relevant to the matter at hand.

4. Opinion of Character: Offer a detailed opinion of the person’s character, but don’t generalise. Highlight their positive personality traits, values, beliefs, and any expressions of remorse that you can back up with evidence. Additionally, discuss any personal circumstances that may have contributed to the offence, being careful not to shift blame. Address the potential effects the offence and its consequences, such as a loss of license, may have on the person.

5. Evidence of Character: Support each statement with specific and relevant examples. For instance, if you describe the person as honest and trustworthy, provide an example of their past behaviour that demonstrates these qualities.

6. Signature & Date: Conclude the character reference with your handwritten signature and the date. Remember to provide the original reference (not a copy) to the court.

Our Tips for Writing a Good Character Reference For Court

1. Be Clear and Ensure it’s Legible: Type the character reference for clarity and legibility. Handwritten references may be difficult to read and may not assist the court effectively. Keep the formatting and font simple and clear – we suggest 1.5 line spacing, normal margins, and standard fonts like Times New Roman or Arial.

2. Be Concise: Keep the character reference concise, preferably no more than two pages, and aim to be succinct and to the point. Judges and magistrates appreciate focused and relevant information.

3. Don’t Criticise the Law or the Victim: Refrain from criticising the law or suggesting the penalty that should be imposed. Maintain a respectful tone throughout the reference.

4. Keep it Formal: If you have a formal position or recognisable qualifications, use your organisation’s letterhead to print the character reference. This helps establish credibility.

5. Proofread: Always have someone other than the referee proofread the reference to identify and correct any spelling or grammatical errors. Guest Lawyers can assist with this if needed.

6. Address the Court Correctly: Address the character reference to “The Presiding Magistrate” in the local court or “The Presiding Judge” in the District Court. Always refer to judges and magistrates as “Your Honour.”

7. Be Accurate: Do not state that an offence is out of character if similar offences have occurred in the past. Be truthful and accurate in your statements to avoid misleading the court. We suggest asking the person themselves if have committed similar offences.

Tips For Traffic Matters

  • Impact of License Loss: If you are aware of any difficulties that the person may face as a result of losing their license, it is important to state these in the character reference. This can include transportation challenges, impacts on their personal life, or limitations on their ability to fulfil responsibilities.
  • Impacts To Your Business: If you are the person’s employer and their loss of licence will have a significant impact on your business operations, clearly state this in the reference. Explain how their job performance, attendance, or ability to fulfil job requirements may be affected. If the person may face job loss or suspension due to the licence loss, it is crucial to express this explicitly.

Some Final Thoughts Regarding Character References in Court

Writing an effective character reference requires careful consideration and adherence to specific guidelines. A well-crafted character reference can significantly influence court proceedings and assist judges and magistrates in making informed decisions. By following the tips provided, you can create a powerful character reference that presents a comprehensive view of the person’s character and positively impacts the court’s decision. For expert legal guidance and assistance in regards to a number of criminal and traffic matters, such as drug offences and unlicensed driving, invite you to contact Brisbane-based criminal lawyers Guest Lawyers.