How To Write A Character Reference for Court In Victoria

How To Write A Character Reference for Court In VictoriaA character reference is a letter written for a court hearing that describes a person's qualities and behaviour, which provides some insight to the Judge or Magistrate into the individual's character and reputation.

A good character reference letter can potentially make a difference in a judge's decision, highlighting the defendant's positive traits and making a case for leniency based on their character and past behaviour. Character reference letters can vary a great deal depending on the reason you are writing it and your relationship with the person who has requested the letter.

A Melbourne criminal lawyer can provide valuable insights on points to highlight in your letter that could help the person you’re writing for get a better outcome on their case, as they understand the court's perspective and what would be most persuasive to a judge or magistrate.

In general, you may want to answer the following questions as part of your letter.

What Should You Include In Your Character Reference?

An introduction about you

  • How long have you known the person for whom you are providing a reference?
  • How did you meet that person?
  • Do you have any other qualifications or references that might be relevant? (such as where you are employed or any specific education or certifications)

Information about your relationship with the person

  • How often do you see or call the person?
  • When was the last time you talked to or saw them?

Your knowledge of the charges

  • Has the person discussed the charges with you?
  • Have they discussed their remorse or how the charges have affected their life?
  • Have they apologized to the victim or paid for any damages?
  • Have they sought any treatment or counselling after the charge?

Your knowledge of the person’s background

  • Has the person had any problems in their personal life that may have led to the charges? (drug or alcohol concerns, abuse or violence, etc.)
  • What is your knowledge of their education and certifications?

Your opinion of their character

  • What is this person’s general character? What kind of person are they?
  • Is it out of character that they would commit the offence? Why?
  • Has this person given back to the community by volunteering, working with their church, or doing other activities?

The court wants to know your unbiased opinion of these various items. It is important to be truthful and include anything that you think might be helpful to show the person’s character.

What Should Be Your Goal When Writing A Character Reference?

As you’re writing your character reference, you should keep in mind the overall goal of the letter. The letter should:

  • Convey that the person you’re writing for feels remorse or regret
  • Describe the steps they’re taking to get back on track
  • Show examples as to why the person is a good friend, family member or member of the community
  • Provide examples of general good character and explain why the charges laid against them are outside of their general character

Top 4 Tips for Writing A Good Character Reference for Court

  1. Start the letter with “Your Honor” and use formal language.
  2. Include your full name and contact information.
  3. Avoid accusing anyone, using foul language or discussing the unfairness of the criminal process. The letter should just be about the person you’re writing about and why you think they’re a decent person.
  4. Avoid providing an opinion about what the outcome of a case should be. That’s not for you to decide, that’s up to the Judge/Magistrate. Stick to your opinion on the person you’re writing about.
  5. Before finalizing your letter, it may be beneficial to reach out to a criminal lawyer. What criminal lawyers do extends beyond just courtroom representation - they can also guide you in highlighting the most impactful points in your character reference, ensuring it’s compelling for the judges and magistrates. Depending on the severity of the crime, this could lead to more lenient sentencing, lower fines and potentially even impact how long their criminal record lasts.

An Example Of A Character Reference for Court

Every character reference is different depending on the charges and the relationship you have with the person you’re writing about, that being said, below is a brief example to give you an idea of the proper tone and content of this type of letter.

2 October 2023

The Presiding Magistrate

Victoria Magistrates’ Court

Your Honour:

My name is Jessica Smith, and I live at 123 Eagle Street in Victoria. I am a bookkeeper by trade. I have worked with Jane Doe as an independent contractor for the past five years. I see her two or three times per week. I understand that Ms. Doe has been charged with the crime of public intoxication.

Ms. Doe is very embarrassed about her charge. She has only told me in the office, and I do not think she has shared the charge with her family because she is ashamed of what happened. She very clearly regrets how she behaved. She is now attending an alcohol support group and has stopped going out with friends to bars on the weekends. I do not believe she has had a drink since she was charged.

I have always thought that Ms. Doe was very reliable and hardworking. She regularly picked up shifts and offered to work more hours. She has always been on time and dressed nicely. She is very responsible, so this charge is out of character for her.

Should you wish to contact me about this reference, please do so by calling [phone number].


Jessica Smith

Character Reference for Court Template

There are no one size fits all character reference templates, but you can use the above example to create your own character reference. Keep the goals of the letter in mind as you write. You may also want to ask for specific tips and information from a criminal defence lawyer.


A character reference for court can be a valuable part of a hearing if it includes the right information. The overall goal is to explain to the court any matter that would show remorse or good moral character. A criminal defence lawyer may be able to provide more information and guidance.

Resources and Further Reading

June Duncan

June Duncan

June has been writing about legal matters for law firms for over a decade. She is a licensed lawyer and currently practices law full-time. She writes in her spare time because she enjoys helping others decode the complexities of legal jargon so they can understand and assert their legal rights.

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