Character Reference Letter for Court - Free Download
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Writing a character reference
Fact sheet P10
What do these words mean
Words that are highlighted in bold are explained in our
What do these words mean fact sheet.
What is a character reference
You have been asked to write a character reference for
someone going to court because this person has broken
the law. A character reference is a letter and includes
your opinion of this person.
The magistrate or judge will read the character
reference before deciding what penalty to give.
The reference will be more helpful if you have known
the person for a long time or you have had lots of
contact with them. You must also be of good character
and not have been in serious trouble with the police
What should I include in the reference
The tone of the reference
Write the character reference so it is formal but speaks
honestly about this person.
The contents of the reference
Below are questions that the magistrate or judge usually
wants to know about. You do not have to answer every
question in your reference. Only comment on things you
actually know about the person.
Who you are
• Introduce yourself, say what your job is and include
any qualifications you hold.
Your relationship to the person
• How do you know the person How long have you
known them How often do you see or call them
Your knowledge of the person’s charges
• Has the person talked with you about the charges
and why they are going to court
• How do they feel about what they have done Are
they sorry for what they did How have they shown
that For example, have they been distressed or
upset Have they gone to counselling Have they
paid for any damage or said sorry to the victim
• Has the person suffered any hardship or
punishment because of these offences For
example, did they lose their job Was their
reputation damaged Do they feel disgraced in their
community or among family and friends
Your knowledge of what is going on in the person’s life
• What do you know of the person’s background and
any hardship in their life
• Are there any personal problems that may have
played a part in what they did For example, drug
or alcohol use, financial issues, mental illness.
What are they doing to overcome these problems
Your opinion of the person’s character
• What is their general character and reputation in
• What sort of person are they Is it out of character
that this person committed the offence Why do
• Do they have prior convictions If so, does this
affect your opinion of the person
• Has the person contributed to their community by
doing voluntary work, or had special achievements
in their job or schooling, or sporting activities
How do I set out the reference
Write the reference like a letter. Type it up and put it on
a letterhead if you have one.
See the example character reference on the other side
of this fact sheet.
• Put the date at the top of the reference.
• For cases being heard in the Magistrates’ Court,
address the reference to ‘The Presiding Magistrate,
[court location]’. For cases in the County or
Supreme Court, address it to ‘The Presiding Judge’.
• Start all references with ‘Your Honour’.
• Sign the reference at the end.
Where do I send the reference
Give the reference to the person going to court. Do this
well before the court date. Or send it to their lawyer.
You can also call the lawyer to discuss the reference.