Our character reference guide with templates, available for download in PDF:


Character reference guide and templates.pdf



When a Court sentences an individual, the details of the crime are only one of many features that must be taken into account. Behind every headline and offence is a human being with a life and story. Sometimes, this is best shown through people close to the defendant. References can come from family, friends, employers and work mates.

The purpose of a character reference is to tell the Court about all of the things about the defendant that it won’t know from the facts of the offence or the prosecutor’s submissions. References will often speak about a defendant’s good values, work history and community involvement.


There’s no golden rule about what a reference should include. Generally speaking, however, it must show that the author is aware of the charges that the defendant is facing. This is to demonstrate that the author’s opinion about the defendant has not changed, despite their charges.

In our detailed guide available for download, we suggest a simple approach for authors to follow:

  •  A sentence or two setting out you occupation and a bit about yourself.
  • Details of how long you have known the person and the nature of your relationship (this gives the Magistrate or Judge an indication of why your comments in relation to their character should be noted).
  • Comment on the offences in question, such as if they are out of character.
  • Details of any positive attributes such as community contributions, family values and work ethic.

References must always be dated and signed. It is preferable for references to be typed and placed on letterhead, especially for a reference from an employer.



  • Try to excuse the defendant’s behaviour or blame the victim in the offence (remember that if you are writing a reference, the person has decided to plead guilty to the offence and will be treated by the Court as being criminally responsible).
  • Ask the Court not to send the person to jail or suggest any particular sort of penalty (this is for the lawyers to make submissions about and the decision about penalty always rests with the Magistrate or Judge).


If the person you are writing a reference for already has a lawyer, they will no doubt review your reference before it is provided to the Court.

If you or a person charged require more advice about how to prepare a character reference for Court in Queensland, contact us today.