Character reference guide

Tips for an effective character reference to accompany a simple guilty plea

A character reference is a statement made by a person with a good reputation in the community who knows you. A character reference can help show that you are an honest person, or it can help the court understand your situation. For example, a character reference can help show that you were acting out of the ordinary when you allegedly committed an offence. 

Who should you ask to provide a character reference?

Examples of people to ask to provide character references include:

  • Former or current teachers
  • Former or current employers
  • Religious leaders
  • Neighbours
  • Anyone who has helped you in a counselling or rehabilitation program

If you have undertaken a rehabilitation program, you can ask your parents or friends to write a character reference if they have noticed a change in your attitudes, addictions or behaviour as a result of rehabilitation.

When you ask someone to provide a reference, make sure you tell them about the charges you are facing. 

What should the character reference include?

 The character reference should include:

  • How long, and in what capacity, the writer has known you
  • That the writer knows about the charges you are facing
  • Whether the writer thinks the crime is out of character
  • The writer’s opinion of you in the capacity in which he or she knows you (e.g. whether you have been a good student or a polite neighbour)
  • Any positive changes that the writer has seen as a result of rehabilitation
  • Anything else that the writer wishes to add about your character 

Who should it be addressed to?

The reference should be addressed to “The Presiding Magistrate” and signed by the writer.

Click here to download a Character Reference Guide and Template


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