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How to Write a Character Reference for Court

Character references should:

  1. Be typed, dated, signed and on a letterhead if possible
  2. Be addressed to “Your Honour”
  3. Say something positive about you, the ‘referee’, such as
  • What you do for a living and how long you have done it
  • Any positions you hold in the community, and/or
  • Any positive contributions to the community such as charitable work
  1. Say how long and in what circumstances you have known the defendant
  2. Say something positive about the defendant such as his or her general nature as a person, work ethic, honesty, reliability and contributions to the community, giving an example if possible
  3. Say that you are aware of the offence/s the defendant is charged with and include the name/s of that or those offence/s in the reference
  4. Say that you are aware of any previous offences and include the name/s of that or those offence/s as well
  5. Say the offence is out of character, explaining why this is so
  6. Where appropriate, say that the defendant has spoken to you about the offence, that he or she accepts full responsibility, is affected by the incident and proceedings, and how, is remorseful, and outline any steps taken to prevent a reoccurrence, and/or why you believe there will be no future offending
  7. Say something about the impact of a criminal conviction on the defendant, and/or a licence disqualification in traffic cases where the offence is very serious, speak of the possible impact of a harsh penalty
  8. Include a final line inviting the court to contact you for further information

Please note that this is a guide only, that reference must be truthful in their entirety and that the words and style used should be your own.

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