08 7111 0375

First consultation free



- By Naomi Hill

In criminal law and traffic cases, when a Court finds a person guilty of an offence, it must impose a penalty for the crime. An important part of this process is character references. A good character reference can often persuade the Court to impose a less severe penalty on the accused person, so it’s a good idea to know what’s involved.

What is administrative law and how does it work?


What is a character reference?

A character reference is a letter written about the accused by someone they know well. The person who writes the reference is known as a “referee”.

Character references are used to mitigate, or reduce, the possible penalty that may be handed down to the accused person.

There are a number of ways to mitigate the penalty that will be imposed by the Court. An accused (often through their lawyer) can provide medical reports that explain the accused’s actions or circumstances. They may call witnesses to attest to the accused’s lifestyle. For example, if an accused is guilty of a driving offence, witnesses may give evidence about how loss of licence would cause severe disruption to the accused’s life and family.  The Court will often accept letters from character referees instead of hearing evidence from them.

Mitigation is an accepted and important part of the sentencing process and the Court expects an accused (or their lawyer) to make submissions in mitigation. Some people take the view that because they are guilty of committing the crime, they should also just accept whatever punishment the Court imposes. But this can make the punishment unnecessarily harsh, especially because the Court has an expectation that there will be submissions in mitigation.

Who should provide a character reference?

In essence, a character reference is a letter to the Court from someone who knows the accused very well. It doesn’t have to be a person who has an important job or is held in high regard by society (for example, a priest, politician or football player). The referee could be someone who has known the accused for a long time or someone who has had a lot of contact with the accused over a much shorter period, for example:

  • An employer.
  • A fellow worker.
  • A friend.
  • Someone who can talk about the accused’s community service.

What is important is that the person can tell the Court about the accused – what they’re like as a person, how they contribute to society, the difficulties that the accused and/or their loved ones will face if a harsh penalty is imposed. This gives the Court a sense of what kind of person they are.

It is up to the accused to ask people they know provide them with character references. This means that the referees must write a letter to the Court. Often, it is easier for people to agree if they have information about what to include in a reference and have some guidance about how to set out the letter. Further information can be accessed by clicking here for criminal offences, and by clicking here for traffic offences.

What it should say

There are a number of things that should be included in a character reference, including:

  • The referee’s name, job and any qualifications.
  • How long the referee has known the accused and how they know each other.
  • The charges against the accused.
  • Whether they believe the accused is sorry for the offending why they believe this.
  • Whether they believe the accused’s actions were out of character and if so, why.
  • Whether the accused contributes to the community, for example by volunteering.
  • Whether the accused was experiencing hardship at the time of the incident and whether they are likely to suffer hardship if a severe penalty is imposed.
  • Which of the accused’s personal qualities the referee likes or admires.
  • For traffic offences, discuss how a loss of licence might impact upon the accused.

For more detailed information, click here for criminal offences and click here for traffic offences.

How to set out the letter

Character references shouldn’t be lengthy but must include all the relevant information and should be properly addressed to the Court. They should also include the referee’s name and contact details. It is also important that the letter is dated.

We provide a useful template for setting out a character reference, which is available to anyone. To access the templates, click here for criminal offences and click here for traffic offences.

When facing a penalty for a criminal or traffic offence, a character reference is an important part of the sentencing process that can often help to reduce the severity of a penalty. Even though it might appear to be a minor detail, it is a significant and powerful aspect of mitigation.

If you have been charged with a criminal or traffic offence, contact us today for a free first interview. Because the sooner you act, often the better off you’ll be.







Having such a short time frame I was very impressed with the outcome made by [my solicitor]. Excellent and timely manner


Kurralta Park

Very professional mannerism and overall great outcome was delivered by Websters Lawyers.


West Ryde NSW

Helpful, explained fully, patient, excellent service.



Patient and helpful in explaining the process.



Call Websters Lawyers for a most professional and friendly service. All understanding with [my solicitors] and the reception staff. Thank you so much.



Making my will was effortless on my part, with everything explained clearly. Well done to all.



Great service, professional, explains things clearly, definitely recommend Websters Lawyers.


Upper Hermitage

Patient, professional, good communication about procedures and probable outcomes.



Thank you for all your work over the course of the case. You [both] were always very approachable and I appreciated your understanding and professionalism in all areas.


Christie Downs

All in all my experience was great. Thank you for your time and expertise.


Seacombe Gardens

My matter was dealt with efficiently and was explained in an understandable language. A pleasant experience.



Practical and very helpful. Reasons and explanations given where needed



I stumbled across Websters in the Yellow Pages and I rang, explained my situation and immediately they took my case on. Greatly appreciate their services.



The service from Websters Lawyers was outstanding. [My solicitor] was caring, had patience and was very professional. Wonderful personality.



[My solicitor] made everything so simple to understand. [The receptionist] was wicked too, would recommend them anytime. Level of entire service was outstanding.


Golden Grove


I had dealings with Websters over 20 years ago. They were my first choice when I recently needed legal advice. Both legal and office staff were professional, courteous and accessible at all times. Everything was explained up front in a clear and concise manner. I would not hesitate to recommend their services.



It has truly been a pleasure communicating with you throughout the process. I really appreciate your patient and speedy replies to my questions and requests. You were always able to provide an easily understood response and this helped me deal with the process. Your friendly and positive manner encouraged me to seek your advice.


Battery Hill QLD

[My lawyer's] service was prompt and efficient with all questions explained clearly with all our requests carried out within the laws. Overall service was very satisfactory.


Wynn Vale

[My lawyer] was excellent. 



Excellent service. Professional. Clear advice and instructions. Prompt actions. Overall 10/10!


Ingle Farm

Overall, I was happy with my outcome and my lawyer, would definitely recommend [my lawyer].



[My solicitor] was excellent at helping us through preparing our wills which were particularly challenging as they involved assets in multiple countries. She was professional and knowledgeable and spent time tailoring the wills to our needs.



[My solicitor] was very helpful, respectful and polite. She made sure I understood the process and documentation of our wills.



Professional. Smooth Transaction. 


Largs North

I found the whole experience from Receptionist to Solicitor excellent. They completely put us at our ease.



This was a new experience for us and didn’t have a clue what to do. [Our solicitor] on our first visit put us at ease, explained what will happen, pointed out there was a strong case. [Our solicitor] was genuine in her approach, kept us well informed, explained actions several times with patience and understanding. Overall very happy with the service we received.


Elizabeth Vale

[My lawyer] was very reassuring in her approach to my case. I felt that every possibility in terms of evidence to provide and possible outcomes were explained to me, The result of the case was the best possible outcome I could have expected.

David, Belair


With no previous dealing with the criminal justice system, [our solicitor] gave us excellent advice and guided us through a nightmare to achieve a just and correct outcome. [Our lawyer] was both forthright and compassionate in her handling of our case.

Malcolm, Belair

[My lawyer] explained all the legal terms in language I could understand – she was very easy to talk to.

Cameron, Munno Para

I felt confident knowing my matter was in good hands. Very professional!

Shravan, Christie Downs

Initial phone call was fantastic and the role of an executor was fully explained.

Penny, Henley Beach

The service I received was efficient and promptly finalised. The solicitor clearly explained the details and I was happy with how easy it was.

Dale, Fairview Park

[My lawyer] was exactly the lawyer I needed in a serious matter. The outcome was as predicted which was a fantastic result. I received prompt professional and personal service at all times. Capable and supportive in a very stressful period.

Jason, Munno Para West

I had any of my concerns answered to my satisfaction and understanding.

Valda, Ingle Farm

[My lawyer] is an excellent professional lawyer who assisted in achieving a great positive outcome/result. I sincerely thank you and your great staff for your assistance and guidance throughout my claim. Would highly recommend [my lawyer], staff and Websters Lawyers. Kept fully informed and guided, professionally throughout the matter.

Rena, Northgate

Our work was dealt with very efficiently and speedily. Our lawyer was very professional, at the same time as being approachable. Communication was great.

Christina, Highbury

My experience with Websters Lawyers was far beyond what I expected. From the moment I spoke to [my lawyer] she made me feel very comfortable and eased my stress. In my case I had a court appearance the day before we were scheduled to fly to Spain, Considering my first appointment with her was only 2 weeks before the court hearing, she was able to obtain the police statement and thoroughly work on my case within that limited time frame. She was very knowledgeable, understanding and confident which greatly relieved so much pressure from me and my family. At court, she explained everything thoroughly and advised me of all the possible outcomes. Price, service and result, very highly recommended. Thank you Websters Lawyers.

Rafael, Davoren Park

I have high expectations and they were met. Websters service was swift, courteous, professional and met the agreed budget. I will recommend Websters to my family, friends and colleagues. Thank you.

Peter, Forestville

I would recommend Websters Lawyers, especially for [my lawyer's] dedication and exemplary attitude and advice. She is the epitome of a good lawyer. The service was impeccable.

Pamela, West Lakes

[My lawyer] was very professional and I was made comfortable to understand.

Gregory, Penfield

I was very pleased with the end result and how well [my lawyer] conducted herself.

Sonya, Glanville

Very professional.

Jesse, Morphett Vale

[My lawyer] has been very prompt , reliable and provided a high level of communication.

Peter, Parkside

My experience at Websters was very positive. The stress was taken from me and I could not be happier with the outcome. [My lawyer] at Websters was professional, personable, available and caring. Thank you for making the experience stress free.

Magda, Holden Hill

Found my lawyer upfront and reliable – I would highly recommend Websters Lawyers.

Lee, Evanston Park


Top bunch of solicitors and admin staff. Very friendly and to the point service.

Bradley, Hallett Cove

Websters Lawyers were very professional in their service, I would be happy to recommend them.

Carole, Tea Tree Gully

We would not hesitate in recommending Websters for any legal matter. They are professional and courteous at all times and call back when they say they will.

David and Dianne, Lockleys


I fully recommend Websters Lawyers. This was the 3rd time myself & my family have used Websters Lawyers. In these stressful times we have found them to answer and guide us through the process needed to accomplish the legal requirements in a timely and courteous manner.

Dianne, Lynton

Solid, to the point, no hustle. Highly recommend.

George, Windsor Gardens

Contact us

Adelaide Office :
T: ( 08 ) 8231 1363
F: ( 08 ) 8231 5529

Ridgehaven Office :
T: ( 08 ) 8395 8000
F: ( 08 ) 8395 8222

Smithfield Office :
T: ( 08 ) 8487 0150
F: ( 08 ) 8395 8222

© Copyright WebstersLawyers.com 2017 All Rights Reserved
Website By A to Z Marketing