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Character References and Support Letters for the Criminal Court


When you are pleading guilty to a criminal offence at a Magistrates’ Court Hearing or a County Court Hearing providing letters to the Court which reflect your good character can assist the outcome of your case.

Generally, the Magistrate or Judge only has a limited time to make an assessment as to who you are as a person and whether the crime for which you are pleading guilty is out of character. Character References are an efficient and effective way to show positive aspects of your personality. It can have a bearing on what punishment the Court decides to impose in your case.

The Police and Prosecution will provide to the Court details about the charges against you and your own defence lawyer can explain your side of the story and why and how you became involved in committing the crime but it is only your family friends and other people such as your employers and work colleagues that can provide an insight into the type of person that you are and the true person that you are.  

A well written reference written from the heart can be extremely influential on portraying to the Court the positive aspects of your personality.

This is a general guide as to what should be included in a reference. Galbally & O’Bryan when representing you at the Magistrates’ Court or the County Court can provide more specialised advice as to what each letter should include and tailor it to the specific case and likely penalty and how such a letter may affect and influence and help and assist the Judicial Officer in reaching a decision as to your penalty.

A letter should be genuine and come from the heart.  Where possible it should be in the letter writer’s own words and it should express their own views.  This generally comes across in the letter and if the letter writer is coached too much or in some instances, perhaps copies examples off the Internet, this falseness will come through in the letter.

Galbally & O’Bryan have had many years of representing people with clean records
and people with extensive criminal histories in the criminal Courts. Our experience has assisted us in guiding clients as to what support letters can be of assistance in their case.  A reference or support letter is not the be all and end all of a case but it can certainly provide in our view assistance to the Court to ultimately arrive at a positive outcome for you.

The form of the letter and the contents of the letter is vital.  Generally, each letter ought to be in the following format and include the following details:

- Limited to one page if possible.

- Typed in clear font.

- Dated and signed by its author with a contact telephone number.

- Set out in a concise and clear language, the relationship between you and the letter writer.

- The letter writer should mention the awareness of the charges of what you are facing and your remorse and regret at becoming involved in that criminal behaviour. It may include an explanation by you as to why you became involved in the particular crime.

- Details of good points of your character that they have witnessed over the years they have known you.

- The letter ought be addressed to the Presiding Magistrate or if in the County Court, the Presiding Judge.

For further information on your Criminal Law case, contact our office on (03)9200.2533 or contact Catherine O'Bryan at