Brisbane: (07) 3221 4999
Gold Coast: (07) 5532 3133
24 Hour Crime Line: 0488 999 980 or 18004POTTS
Santos Place, Level 6, 32 Turbot Street,
Brisbane 4000
(07) 3221 4999
Gold Coast
44 Davenport St,
Southport 4215
(07) 5532 3133
24 Hour Crime Line
0488 999 980 or 18004POTTS







Preparing for Your Guilty Plea – the Benefits of Character References

Potts Lawyers > Criminal Law & Offences  > Preparing for Your Guilty Plea – the Benefits of Character References

Preparing for Your Guilty Plea – the Benefits of Character References

If you are pleading guilty to a criminal charge in the Magistrates Court in Queensland, you will have the option of providing character references to the court as part of your submissions.

You are not obliged to present a reference.  Nor will failing to provide one be held against you.  However, they can prove beneficial to the outcome of your matter.

Providing good references may assist your lawyer in highlighting positive aspects of your character, your relationships and your circumstances.

Furthermore, in circumstances where your offending could be seen as ‘out of character’, references can help to distinguish you, as a person, from your offending and provide the court with some assurance that you are unlikely to re-offend.


What is a character reference?

A character reference is a letter written by someone who knows you well and can attest to your good character. They can be tendered in court by your criminal lawyer and read by the Presiding Magistrate before, or during, your sentence.


Who can provide a character reference?

Any individual who has personal knowledge of your character can write a reference for you. Contrary to popular belief, referees do not need to be individuals in positions of power to be persuasive.

They may well be such a person – however, the most important feature is that your referee knows you well and can be trusted to comment truthfully on your character.

Employers, friends, work colleagues or sometimes family members with whom you have a close relationship, are all examples of potential referees.

What should your character reference include?

Character references are testimonies based on first-hand experience. This means that they should only include opinions and examples that the referee has personally experienced.

Broadly, each reference should include:

  1. The referee’s full name and occupation;


  1. A brief paragraph on their background;


  1. Details of how long they have known you and the nature of your relationship;


  1. The fact that they are aware of the charge(s) against you, and the nature of the charge(s);


  1. The fact that they are aware of your requirement to attend court to answer to your charge(s);


  1. Their views on your character;


  1. Any instances where they believe you have shown good character;


  1. The ways in which they have dealt with you that would qualify them to comment on your character;


  1. Details of any attributes that they deem positive, including any contributions you have made to them, society or for a charitable purpose; and


  1. The referee’s signature and date of signing.

What shouldn’t a character reference include?

Character references should not include:

  1. Irrelevant information;


  1. Denials of wrongdoing on your behalf (these are not consistent with a plea of guilty);


  1. Attempts to explain or contextualise your offending;


  1. Attempts to excuse or justify your offending;


  1. Suggestions as to appropriate penalties or outcomes;


  1. Appeals for leniency from the court;


  1. Legal arguments or commentary; and


  1. Opinions that require specific expertise to be made (i.e.: medical, psychological, legal, academic etc.).


Material from experts can be placed before the court, but this is different to presenting character references.


Who should the character reference be addressed to?

References should be addressed to the Presiding Magistrate of the court in which you are being sentenced. For example:

The Presiding Magistrate

Brisbane Magistrates Court

How should a character reference be formatted?

References should usually not extend beyond one page.

They should be spell-checked, typed in a clear font and properly spaced to ensure they are clear and concise.


Can I write my own character reference?

While you cannot write your own character reference, you can write a letter of apology. A letter of apology, as the name suggests, is a letter that apologises for the offending.

Letters of apology should follow a similar structure to character references, however, should not comment on your character.  They traditionally involve a reflection on the actions that led to the commission of the offence.

When deciding your penalty, the court must consider any remorse you have shown for your offending and the insight you have gained into its consequences. You should reflect on the impacts of your actions on any victims, society or the justice system. Further, you should acknowledge an understanding of the seriousness of your charge(s).

The court will also consider any steps you have taken towards rehabilitation, or to address problematic behaviour. If you have engaged in a program or treatment plan in anticipation of your sentence (for example, a traffic offenders’ program or counselling) you should detail these efforts in your letter.

Specifically, you should express how your position has improved since your offending and any positive psychological changes you may have experienced as a result of your rehabilitation.

Letters of apology should avoid justifying, qualifying, downplaying, or making excuses for your offending. They should, quite simply, accept full responsibility for your offending and make a genuine promise to the court not to re-offend.

Everything expressed in a letter of apology must be genuine.

It is very important a person obtains legal advice before presenting a letter of apology.

If you want to write a character reference for somebody else, see our article on how to write a character reference for court.


What if I need assistance with my documents?

If you are unsure about your character references or letter of apology, you should communicate this to your lawyer in advance of your sentence.

Your lawyer can assist you in ensuring that both documents abide by the correct formalities and format.

Providing your references at least a week before your sentence will allow for sufficient time for your lawyer to consider them.


We Can Help

Potts Lawyers are one of the largest and most experienced criminal law firms in Queensland. Get in touch with one of our expert lawyers for assistance with a character reference or letter of apology.

Contact us online or call our Gold Coast Legal Office on (07) 5532 3133 or our Brisbane Legal Office on (07) 3221 4999.


No Comments

Sorry, the comment form is closed at this time.

Click-To-Call Free Consultation