How To Write A Character Reference For Court
If a person is charged with a criminal or traffic offence, they may need to attend court to have their case heard. This means that they will be the defendant in the case.
Although this can be daunting, there are some really important things that can be done to try and reduce any sentence that the court may impose. For example, getting character references. They can make a significant difference to the way the court decides the case.
What is a character reference?
A character reference is a letter that is written about the defendant by someone who knows them well (a referee). It is written to the court and is used to give an idea of what kind of person they are and whether the offences are part of their normal behaviour or conduct.
A character reference can be written by anyone who knows the defendant, for example:
- An employer or work colleague.
- A friend
- A family member.
- A community member who can write about the defendant’s involvement in the community.
As a referee, it’s important that you know the defendant well. This means that you may have known
them for many years, or you may have had significant contact with them over a shorter period of
What to say in a character reference:
A character reference should help to paint a picture about the defendant’s unique personal
circumstances. It should be fairly short and be based on your knowledge of them. It should also
provide examples of their character.
An effective character reference should:
- Say who you are – describe your job and give any qualifications.
- Say how long you have known the person and in what capacity (for example, “I have known
John for 20 years. We have been close friends for most of that time”).
- State the charge(s) against the defendant (the defendant will have pleaded guilty or been
found guilty of these charges).
- Say that you are aware of what they have done.
- Say whether the defendant has expressed remorse or has suffered psychologically as a result
of the offending. Set out what they have said or done that confirms these things.
- Say whether you think their conduct was out of character and if so, why.
- Detail any contributions the person has made to the community, for example charity or
- Say whether the defendant was suffering any hardship at the time of the offending
(financially, medically, psychologically of otherwise) and if so, say whether the person has
addressed those issues.
- Say whether the defendant has suffered any hardship as a result of the offending including
loss of employment or reputation.
- Say what you think of the person’s character, for example their qualities that you like or
How to set out a character reference:
You should write the reference as a letter. An example of how to set it out is included on the next
page. The reference should:
- Be addressed to The Presiding Magistrate in the Magistrates Court. For the District Court, it
should be addressed to The Presiding Judge.
- Be dated.
- Include your contact details just in case the Court wishes to contact you to confirm what
you’ve said in the reference.
- Be signed by you, with your name printed underneath your signature.
What not to say:
- Don’t blame others for the defendant’s offending.
- Don’t be critical of the victim or the law.
- Don’t suggest an appropriate penalty.
- Don’t lie.
Before writing the reference, make sure that you ask the person whether they have any other prior
offences. This will ensure that the reference has correct information, especially when you are saying
in the letter whether their conduct was out of character.
A character reference is most effective when supported by examples of the defendant’s good
character rather than general statements. For example, instead of saying that he is an honest man
you should expand and give an example of his honesty such as he is an honest man who many
months ago found a wallet containing personal details and money which he took straight to the
When you have written the reference, you can either give it to the defendant or to their lawyer.
To see template examples, click the following links:
FREE FIRST INTERVIEW
NO WIN NO FEE
LOCAL LAWYERS FOR LOCAL NEEDS
GET THE RIGHT LAWYER FIRST
Having such a short time frame I was very impressed with the outcome made by [my solicitor]. Excellent and timely manner
Very professional mannerism and overall great outcome was delivered by Websters Lawyers.
West Ryde NSW
Helpful, explained fully, patient, excellent service.
Patient and helpful in explaining the process.
Call Websters Lawyers for a most professional and friendly service. All understanding with [my solicitors] and the reception staff. Thank you so much.
Making my will was effortless on my part, with everything explained clearly. Well done to all.
Great service, professional, explains things clearly, definitely recommend Websters Lawyers.
Patient, professional, good communication about procedures and probable outcomes.
Thank you for all your work over the course of the case. You [both] were always very approachable and I appreciated your understanding and professionalism in all areas.
All in all my experience was great. Thank you for your time and expertise.
My matter was dealt with efficiently and was explained in an understandable language. A pleasant experience.
Practical and very helpful. Reasons and explanations given where needed
I stumbled across Websters in the Yellow Pages and I rang, explained my situation and immediately they took my case on. Greatly appreciate their services.
The service from Websters Lawyers was outstanding. [My solicitor] was caring, had patience and was very professional. Wonderful personality.
[My solicitor] made everything so simple to understand. [The receptionist] was wicked too, would recommend them anytime. Level of entire service was outstanding.
I had dealings with Websters over 20 years ago. They were my first choice when I recently needed legal advice. Both legal and office staff were professional, courteous and accessible at all times. Everything was explained up front in a clear and concise manner. I would not hesitate to recommend their services.
It has truly been a pleasure communicating with you throughout the process. I really appreciate your patient and speedy replies to my questions and requests. You were always able to provide an easily understood response and this helped me deal with the process. Your friendly and positive manner encouraged me to seek your advice.
Battery Hill QLD
[My lawyer's] service was prompt and efficient with all questions explained clearly with all our requests carried out within the laws. Overall service was very satisfactory.
[My lawyer] was excellent.
Excellent service. Professional. Clear advice and instructions. Prompt actions. Overall 10/10!
Overall, I was happy with my outcome and my lawyer, would definitely recommend [my lawyer].
[My solicitor] was excellent at helping us through preparing our wills which were particularly challenging as they involved assets in multiple countries. She was professional and knowledgeable and spent time tailoring the wills to our needs.
[My solicitor] was very helpful, respectful and polite. She made sure I understood the process and documentation of our wills.
Professional. Smooth Transaction.
I found the whole experience from Receptionist to Solicitor excellent. They completely put us at our ease.
This was a new experience for us and didn’t have a clue what to do. [Our solicitor] on our first visit put us at ease, explained what will happen, pointed out there was a strong case. [Our solicitor] was genuine in her approach, kept us well informed, explained actions several times with patience and understanding. Overall very happy with the service we received.
[My lawyer] was very reassuring in her approach to my case. I felt that every possibility in terms of evidence to provide and possible outcomes were explained to me, The result of the case was the best possible outcome I could have expected.
With no previous dealing with the criminal justice system, [our solicitor] gave us excellent advice and guided us through a nightmare to achieve a just and correct outcome. [Our lawyer] was both forthright and compassionate in her handling of our case.
[My lawyer] explained all the legal terms in language I could understand – she was very easy to talk to.
Cameron, Munno Para
I felt confident knowing my matter was in good hands. Very professional!
Shravan, Christie Downs
Initial phone call was fantastic and the role of an executor was fully explained.
Penny, Henley Beach
The service I received was efficient and promptly finalised. The solicitor clearly explained the details and I was happy with how easy it was.
Dale, Fairview Park
[My lawyer] was exactly the lawyer I needed in a serious matter. The outcome was as predicted which was a fantastic result. I received prompt professional and personal service at all times. Capable and supportive in a very stressful period.
Jason, Munno Para West
I had any of my concerns answered to my satisfaction and understanding.
Valda, Ingle Farm
[My lawyer] is an excellent professional lawyer who assisted in achieving a great positive outcome/result. I sincerely thank you and your great staff for your assistance and guidance throughout my claim. Would highly recommend [my lawyer], staff and Websters Lawyers. Kept fully informed and guided, professionally throughout the matter.
Our work was dealt with very efficiently and speedily. Our lawyer was very professional, at the same time as being approachable. Communication was great.
My experience with Websters Lawyers was far beyond what I expected. From the moment I spoke to [my lawyer] she made me feel very comfortable and eased my stress. In my case I had a court appearance the day before we were scheduled to fly to Spain, Considering my first appointment with her was only 2 weeks before the court hearing, she was able to obtain the police statement and thoroughly work on my case within that limited time frame. She was very knowledgeable, understanding and confident which greatly relieved so much pressure from me and my family. At court, she explained everything thoroughly and advised me of all the possible outcomes. Price, service and result, very highly recommended. Thank you Websters Lawyers.
Rafael, Davoren Park
I have high expectations and they were met. Websters service was swift, courteous, professional and met the agreed budget. I will recommend Websters to my family, friends and colleagues. Thank you.
I would recommend Websters Lawyers, especially for [my lawyer's] dedication and exemplary attitude and advice. She is the epitome of a good lawyer. The service was impeccable.
Pamela, West Lakes
[My lawyer] was very professional and I was made comfortable to understand.
I was very pleased with the end result and how well [my lawyer] conducted herself.
Jesse, Morphett Vale
[My lawyer] has been very prompt , reliable and provided a high level of communication.
My experience at Websters was very positive. The stress was taken from me and I could not be happier with the outcome. [My lawyer] at Websters was professional, personable, available and caring. Thank you for making the experience stress free.
Magda, Holden Hill
Found my lawyer upfront and reliable – I would highly recommend Websters Lawyers.
Lee, Evanston Park
Top bunch of solicitors and admin staff. Very friendly and to the point service.
Bradley, Hallett Cove
Websters Lawyers were very professional in their service, I would be happy to recommend them.
Carole, Tea Tree Gully
We would not hesitate in recommending Websters for any legal matter. They are professional and courteous at all times and call back when they say they will.
David and Dianne, Lockleys
I fully recommend Websters Lawyers. This was the 3rd time myself & my family have used Websters Lawyers. In these stressful times we have found them to answer and guide us through the process needed to accomplish the legal requirements in a timely and courteous manner.
Solid, to the point, no hustle. Highly recommend.
George, Windsor Gardens