Character Reference for Court

Three Tips to Make a Good Character Reference Stick

A written character reference for court can help a judge or magistrate make a more informed legal decision. A good character reference can also lead to a better outcome for the person who is accused of committing a crime.

We’ve previously covered how to write a character reference in the article ‘A good character reference is easier than you think’. Now, let’s go a step further and look at three ways you can make your character reference as sharp and as helpful as possible.

1. Keep it simple and to the point

It may be tempting to write a lengthy character reference for your friend or family member that goes into great detail about their good qualities or any negative circumstances in their life that may have influenced their behaviour.

However, it’s vital that your letter is brief and to the point. Judges and magistrates can be very busy and if your letter is simple and to the point, they could respond to it more favourably than a long, waffling piece. Think about keeping the length to one side of a standard A4 sheet of paper, unless you’ve specifically been asked to write more.

2. Use concise, formal language

A character reference should stick to the facts about the person in question and avoid emotional or sentimental arguments.

The judge or magistrate will not know very much about the accused beyond what is told to them by lawyers and the police. Your character reference will help paint a more detailed picture.

It’s important to keep your language very formal to have maximum effect. For example, a simple sentence saying the person is “a trustworthy individual whom I have employed for many years” followed up with a highly relevant example and/or supporting fact can be more effective than an entire paragraph detailing examples where the person has acted well at work.

3. Check your character reference thoroughly

The character reference you provide can make a big difference. So read over what you’ve written several times, even aloud, to pick up any spelling or grammatical errors.

You could also have someone you trust read it over – often our own mistakes can be invisible to our eyes. If you’re unsure, getting some expert legal advice on how to construct a suitable character reference can be helpful, and will ensure the reference you deliver can make a positive impact.

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