I have been asked to write a reference for someone who has pleaded guilty to a criminal offence. What do I need to do?
(Probably) Valentin de Boulogne - Saint Paul Writing His Epistles c.1618

A person of good standing is an appropriate person for a referee. A work colleague or manager, family friend or family member can be very appropriate referees: (Probably) Valentin de Boulogne – Saint Paul Writing His Epistles c.1618

The “good character” of an accused, the likelihood of reoffending, remorse shown by the accused and the prospects of rehabilitation are mitigating factors a magistrate or judge may take into account when sentencing an offender: Crimes (Sentencing Procedure) Act, s 21A(3).

The supply of a character reference is to attest to the character of the accused. A reference often says that the actions which resulted in the charges were out of character and the accused now feels a deep sense of remorse and an opinion about the likelihood of the accused re-offending. The reference cannot be given in a vacuum and so the referee must acknowledge that they know the charges made against the accused and how long and in what capacity they know the accused.

Local Court Magistrates read many references every day. It is important that your reference is not merely a proforma document. It should be written in your own words. Solicitors often provide a template to referees but it is necessary to take a few moments to write the reference thinking about your relationship with the accused.

As to format, the reference should:

      • Be in the form of a letter;
      • Be addressed to “The Presiding Magistrate” at the particular court;
      • State your name and address (and be on letterhead if appropriate);
      • Be typed or clearly legible;
      • Be signed and dated
      • If you can email a scanned copy of the signed reference; and
      • Post the original signed reference to us at Gateway Court, Suite 10, 81 – 91 Military Road, Neutral Bay NSW 2000.

As to content, the reference should state:

      • How long and in what capacity you’ve known the accused;
      • That you know the specific charge/s against the accused (and you MUST describe your understanding of what the charges are or say you have been provided with a copy of the Court Attendance Notice);
      • Whether you think the accused is of good character and why;
      • If you have spoken about the allegations with the accused and how the accused feels about them; and
      • Whether the accused has shown remorse and the likelihood of the accused reoffending.

You can download a character reference template here.

A few moments of your time can make a difference to the nature and severity of any sentence imposed on the accused. Your contribution and time will be appreciated by both the accused and the Court to assist in the administration of justice.

Contact us for more information.