Writing an Effective Character References

There are a number of instances whereby a good character reference can be an effective tool in obtaining a Section 10 dismissal as well as in reducing one’s penalties associated with an offence. This article will discuss how to write an effective character reference, what not to include in the character reference and how to bring it to life.

It must be noted that a well drafted court character reference can have an impact on the sentence that is imposed by the court. A good character reference must paint a picture of the character of a person it is written about. Some of the things to exclude a character reference is statements that may be generic or too descriptive in one sentence. For example, “Emily Jenkins is hard-working, energetic and generous with her time and money”. Such character references have a low impact on the sentencing imposed by the court.

It is extremely necessary to bring a person’s character to life by using effective descriptives when writing a character reference. A good example of an effective character reference is:

“Emily Jenkins is very generous with her time and her money. At one point I remember driving home and seeing our elderly neighbour struggling to remove graffiti from her fence. About an hour later I saw Emily with our elderly neighbour scrubbing the graffiti from the fence using solvents and equipment purchased from the hardware store. Emily used the next four hours of her time with our neighbour until all the graffiti was removed. This is just one example of how Emily demonstrates her generosity and compassion to others.”

Below are some pointers as to how a character reference should be set out as well as how to address the local court:

  • For a local court the character reference should be addressed to the Presiding Magistrate. For a District of Supreme Court the character reference should be addressed to The Presiding Judge.
  • Where normal salutation applies, such as Dear Sir/Madam would be used, the salutation should be Your Honour
  • The reference should be typed
  • If possible it should be on an official letterhead
  • The reference should indicate how long you have known the person and that you are aware that the person has been charged with the specific offence they have been charged with.
  • It is important to know whether the person has been charged with a similar offence previously. This is important because if your reference states that the offence is out of their character and the individual has previously been convicted for a similar offence in the past, the character reference is not applicable.
  • If the individual has expressed remorse for their actions or suffered some form of anxiety as a result of being charged by police then you may comment about your observations.
  • If you are aware of any personal circumstances that may have contributed to the commission of the offence you should state these, however, be careful not to shift the blame onto others.

A good character reference has a direct impact on the sentencing of the offender including speeding offences NSW.

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