When a person is charged with a criminal or traffic offence, they are entitled to have their side of the story heard. In Australia, character references are a good way to explain to a judge or magistrate all of the person’s positive attributes to give the court a greater insight into their personal circumstances. When choosing a referee, it is important to choose a person who is close enough to you to provide both a detailed explanation of your character and the issues presented by the charge. This might include family members, coworkers or friends. A character reference can be a very effective tool for persuading a court to make decisions.
Which are favourable for the offender. A wellwritten and detailed character reference may impact upon the final decision that is made and, ultimately, the penalty that is handed down. Therefore, it is important to be aware of what you can and cannot include. There is no one standard way in which a character reference should be written, but some general rules do apply. A character reference: must be typed should include a signature and date should, if possible, be printed on letterhead must be addressed to the appropriate person, such as â€˜the Presiding Magistrate’. Any further references to the magistrate or judge in the character reference must start.
With â€˜Your Honour’. When writing a character reference, you need to take care with what you include so you do not make things worse for the offender. Be thoughtful when writing about prior offences that the offender has committed. Don’t try to suggest the kind of penalty the offender should receive. Don’t write general statements about the offender â€“ you must be specific. Don’t lie in a character reference â€“ it is a crime to deceive the court and you may find yourself in trouble. Don’t make formal suggestions or speeches. Don’t be critical of the court, or the magistrate.
Or judge. Instead: Be courteous at all times. Introduce yourself, state your occupation and qualifications and establish that you are of good character. Indicate that you are aware of the offence that the offender has committed. Include specific details of the offender’s character and details of your relationship with the offender. Include details of the positive aspects of the offender’s personality. If you believe the offence was a oneoff incident, you should say so. Include details of any unfavourable consequences.
The offender will experience as a result of conviction. You should tailor your letter to the particular offender and to the particular charge. For example, if the offender has been charged with drink driving offences, your character reference will need to set out issues relating to drinking. It may explain how the offender is trying to be more responsible with their alcohol consumption, the steps they are taking to ensure the incident does not happen again, or that they acknowledge that drink driving is a mistake. You may also wish to detail the personal consequences that the offender will experience as a result of losing their licence.
If the offender has been charged with, for example, an assault offence, the character reference should, if possible, set out details indicating that the offender is generally of a nonviolent nature, how the offender has previously interacted with family and friends, and other details that will demonstrate to the court that the offender is not a threat to the community. A character reference for someone facing drug charges should focus on the rehabilitation of the offender. The reference may detail steps the offender has taken to stop using drugs and whether the offender has family or friends who can act as a support base going forward.
If you or someone you know has been charged with an offence and you are not sure of what is involved in arranging a character reference, a solicitor can assist you. You may also wish to seek advice about court appearances, penalties and possible defences that are involved with your case. It is important to obtain legal advice quickly. Go To Court Lawyers operate a Legal Hotline on 1300 636 846 where you can talk directly to a lawyer 7am midnight, 7 daysweek. Your call will be treated with the strictest confidentiality and without judgement. The lawyer will assess your matter and recommend a course of action.