When used as part of court proceedings, a character reference can make a significant difference to the outcome for the accused. So if you’ve been asked to provide a character reference, getting it right is vital.
Take a look at the following pointers to help create a character reference that will make the right impression.
What is a character reference?
A character reference is a letter which is addressed to the magistrate or judge assigned to (presiding over) the case. In it you should include information:
- about yourself;
- the duration and nature of your relationship with the accused;
- your understanding of the person’s charges; and
- your knowledge and opinion of them.
This information may be read by the presiding official and could influence the sentence handed down.
How should I write a character reference?
The tone should be formal and content should always be relevant and to the point.
- Start the letter with the date.
- Make sure it’s addressed to the right person.
- Sign it at the end.
- Proof read to pick up on any spelling or grammar errors before it’s sent on to the presiding magistrate or judge.
You should refer to the presiding official as “Your Honour” throughout the document.
The content should provide the court with added insight into the accused.
Honesty is vital
A character reference could potentially shape the sentence that the accused receives, so it is very important to be honest and accurate in what you say. Keep your information factually correct and avoid overuse of emotive language or undue speculation.
Remember that the judge won’t know the person facing charges as well as you do, so include information that will enable the court to get a better understanding of what the person is like and the circumstances which may have lead to them getting into trouble.
If writing isn’t your strong point, it’s can be worth getting some expert legal advice on how to construct a suitable character reference. A supportive lawyer can make sure you include the right helpful information and assist in shaping it into a suitable format for the court.
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