Providing written character references for the Magistrate to consider during sentencing may help to ensure a person gets a more lenient outcome.
The purpose of obtaining character references is to provide to the Court evidence about the person’s character and their attitude towards the offence, including how committing and pleading guilty to the offence has impacted upon them. This evidence assists the Court in determining the appropriate penalty.
A Court reference is not a general reference but rather a guide to the Court about a person’s character from someone who can attest to this. The referee needs to make clear to the Court;
- How they know the person
- Why the person is of good character
- How the offence has impacted on the person
- Their views on whether the person would commit a similar crime again
The referee should generally have known the person for a substantial period of time and have a good insight into a person’s character. While a reference from a Doctor or well established person often carries a lot of weight, references from friends, family or employers can still be quite valuable, especially given that they can often provide the best insight to the person’s character.
It should be noted that the referee must be aware of the offence. It is of no value if they do not mention in the reference that they are aware of the offence and have discussed it with the person. While it is often embarrassing to have to admit the nature of the charges to someone it is essential to ensure the reference carries weight before the court. A referee could not be expected to be able to judge a person’s remorse and the impact a charge has had without knowing the exact charges.
Generally a reference should include
- The referee’s name, address and phone number
- An explanation of how they know the person, for how long and what their relationship to the person is
- The fact that the referee is aware of the offence and has discussed it with the person
- The referee’s opinion, based on the relationship, of the person’s character, the impact of the offence on the person and whether the person has changed in any way after the offence
- Any issues specific to the referee (e.g. an employer may to comment on the effect that a conviction and/or any loss of licence will have upon the person’s continuing employment status)
- Whether the referee thinks the person is likely to re-offend
- Anything else the referee considers appropriate
Referees are not required to attend the Court and will not receive a response from the Court about how the reference was treated. It is important to note once a reference is tended in open Court then it becomes a public document and can be seen by member of the general public if they choose to search the Court file.
It is important to remember that references are not essential, but they certainly can assist in ensuring you obtain the absolute best possible outcome for your circumstances.
If you want to engage us or just need further information then you can either;