Navigating Character References in NSW Courts

Utilising Character References in Sentencing Hearings: A Guide to Effectively Presenting Personal Testimonials in NSW Courts

A character reference is a letter written to the court by someone who knows you well and can vouch for your character. In New South Wales, Australia, these references can be pivotal during sentencing hearings. 

Here are some basic guidelines on how to best use character references at a sentencing hearing: 

Who should write it?

Choose someone who knows you well and can provide a positive and honest account of your character. This could be a friend, family member, colleague, or employer.

Disclosure of Offences

The person writing the reference must know the charges against you. They must disclose this knowledge in the letter. A reference may not be used if it states that the offence is out of character if the person has been charged with a similar offence previously.

Content of the Letter

 The reference should start by stating who the writer is, their occupation, and how long they have known you. It should also include specific examples of your good character and any actions you’ve taken to make amends or changes since the offence.

Addressing the Letter

All legal character references should begin with “Your Honour”. If you’re unsure, consult the criminal lawyer acting for the accused.

Role of Character References
 While a character reference can be a helpful tool in sentencing, it’s just one of many factors that the court will consider.

Remember, the goal of a character reference is to help the judge understand you as an individual outside of the criminal conviction. Therefore, it’s crucial that the letter is honest, specific, and clearly understands the gravity of the situation.