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How to Write a Character Reference

Character references play an essential part in almost every sentence proceedings.

When a court is sentencing someone for an offence, no matter how serious the matter, the court is looking to find out more about the person they are sentencing. Well drafted and informative character references can show the court your true character, and play a vital role in securing the minimum possible sentence.

This page is designed to assist you in presenting the strongest possible references.

Well-chosen

It is essential that the referees are carefully chosen. The referee should be someone whose opinion the court is likely to have regard to. They should be someone who has known you for some time, and knows you well. They should be someone who is able to reflect upon times they have seen you demonstrate positive qualities, and be able to express that in writing.

Descriptive

Any reference can make bland statements about your character. A reference that does no more than comment that you are, say, “hardworking, caring, and responsible” is unlikely to assist you.

A referee should be able to give concrete examples of when they have seen you demonstrate positive character, and be able to explain how that incident shaped their opinion of you.

Well informed

It is essential that any reference sets out the offences in respect of which you are to be sentenced. If the reference does not make clear that the referee is familiar with the details of your case, the court will most likely assume that you have not told the referee. If you do not want to tell the referee the details of the offence, then you are best off choosing a different referee.

Honest

It is incredibly important that any reference presented to the court is honest. A referee who signs a false reference commits a criminal offence that can result in penalties up to and including imprisonment. Presenting a false reference to a court is even more serious.

Sensible

A reference needs to provide a realistic picture of you. If you are coming before the court for your third offence, it makes no sense to describe the offending as “completely out of character”. In the same way, wild exaggerations and hyperbole are unhelpful, and usually do more harm than good.

Easy to read

A reference should be:

  • Usually no more than a page
  • Typewritten
  • Dated
  • Signed
  • Addressed to the court

J Sutton Associates have the experience and insight to provide you with the right advice when it comes to character references. For some free advice and guidance, please contact us.

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