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Is someone you know involved in court proceedings? They may ask you to write a character reference. If you do provide a character reference, you should know the person for a considerable length of time. It should be typed, dated and signed. If you know the Court proceedings’ reference number, you should include this in the letter. Below, we run through some quick tips to help you write a character reference.

1. Who Are You?

The Magistrate or Judge will need to know:

  • Who you are;
  • Your address;
  • Date of birth;
  • Your current job; and
  • Any qualifications you have.

2. How Do You Know the Person?

Your character reference will need to explain:

  • What is your relationship with the person? How do you know them? Are you a friend, family member, colleague or mentor?
  • How long have you known the person? As set out above, the Court is likely to give more weight to someone who has known the person for a long time. Or, if you have not known them for a long time, you need to be someone who has spent considerable time with them. You should also try to set out how often you are in contact with them. For example, ‘I see X twice a week.’

3. What Do You know About the Person’s Charges or the Proceedings?

Your character reference will also set out your knowledge of the person’s current predicament. It is important to ask yourself:

  • Do you know why they are in Court?
  • What discussions have you had with the person about the Court proceedings?
  • Have they Displayed Remorse to You? If so, how have they shown this.

This is all helpful for a Judge when considering what penalty they will hand out.

4. What Actions Has the Person Displayed Since They Were Charged?

The Judge when determining what penalty the person receives will consider whether the offender:

  • Has undergone any counseling/mentoring;
  • Attempted restitution;
  • Apologised for their action;
  • The true impact on the person’s life;
  • Your observations. I.e., are there any particular problems in the person’s life that may have contributed to their actions?

5. Describing the Person’s Character

This is the crux of the reference. You will need to describe accurately and honestly for the Magistrate or Judge what is the person’s character. Ask yourself:

  • Do you know about the person’s reputation in the community?
  • Has the person made valuable contributions to the community? For example volunteer work or participation in team sports.
  • Is this behaviour out of character for this person?
  • What makes you believe this person won’t re-offend, if you, in fact, believe this.

The Judge will read your reference and will use it to decide what penalty, if any, to give to the person. With that in mind, your reference will need to be detailed enough to provide the Judge with a clear, honest opinion of the person.

LegalVision cannot provide legal assistance with this topic. We recommend you contact your local law society.


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