View Full Version : Personal Reference Letters to Court

11-06-2004, 02:56 PM
Hello, I came across some advice concerning personal reference letters and I hope sharing it here will benefit some of us.

Take Care! xxx (

Make a positive impact with personal reference letters


Tushar K. Pain

Barrister & Solicitor

Toronto, Ontario

Letters of personal reference are typically used in the sentencing process. They provide the court insight into you and your reputation as a member of the community. A few good letters of personal reference can make a tremendously positive impact upon your case. These letters may also be useful in other aspects of your case. To make a positive impression through letters of personal reference, consider obtaining a minimum of three.

Here is an outline for drafting a letter of personal reference:

The letter should be typed, dated, and signed in blue ink at the bottom.
The author’s full name and address should be included.
The letter provided to your lawyer should be the original.
The letter should actually be written by the person who has signed it – resist any offer from those you have asked for a letter to put their signature to something that you have drafted yourself.
The author should state his or her age and occupation.
The author should state for how long and what capacity he or she has known you.
The author should state that he or she is aware of the offence that you are facing or have admitted to committing and what his or her reaction is.
The author should, where appropriate, make comment on the effects he or she has observed this matter to have upon you. For instance, if the writer believes that you are remorseful, then he or she should say so and state why he or she believes it to be.
The author should, where appropriate, comment on your positive reputation and character. For instance, if the author believes that you are an otherwise honest and decent person and doesn’t expect you to ever find yourself in trouble with the law again, he or she should say so.

Sample Letters

The following two letters were submitted on behalf of Anwar Param at his sentencing hearing. Anwar had pleaded guilty to assaulting his wife. Believing her to be involved with another man, Anwar punched his wife. The Crown was asking that Anwar be sent to jail for 30 days. I was opposing this and seeking a probationary sentence. In the end, Anwar did not have to go to jail. He was placed on probation, ordered to maintain his counselling and was allowed to return to his wife.

1517 Oakleaf Drive

Ajax, Ontario

L2V 5T5

May 16, 1999

The Honourable Judge K. Jones:

My name is Roy Shobha and I am a Canadian citizen residing in Ajax with my wife and three children since 1980. I am employed with the Ontario Government as an accountant since 1980.

I have known Mr. Anwar Param for the last 16 years, and we have shared a variety of activities such as parties, sports, picnics, and traveling within Canada. Also, I have known Mr. Param to be a prudent, conscientious, hardworking and a caring person. After he got married, he worked very hard at several jobs to establish himself, and his family. In 1997, Mr. Param bought a house in Ajax and has settled very well in a new environment next to myself and my family. Mr. Param is very proud of his family and has endeavoured to be a major provider in the home for his wife, two children and his 74 year old widowed mother.

Due to his present situation, I have been maintaining his property, i.e., mowing the lawn, assisting with grocery shopping and his children’s activities. I make arrangement for him to see his children at my place. He has confessed to me that he loves his wife and children and his mother very dearly and his only wish is to be with them very soon.

If you require any further information, please contact me at (416) 555-1282.

Thank you.


Roy Shobha

88 Fieldstone Crescent

Markham, Ontario

L5D 9L5

May 14, 1999

The Honourable Judge K. Jones:

My name is Sameer Kumar and I live in Richmond Hill with my loving wife and three children since 1987. I am the owner of my own company, Sameer Clothing: I import Indian clothing from India to sell in Canada.

I have known Mr. Anwar Param for 25 years, he is my brother-in-law, and a real good friend. We share our holidays together and always meet with our big family for such occasion as dinners, birthdays, holy days, etc. Mr. Param to me is a hardworking, loving, and caring person who tries to succeed in everything he puts his mind to. After his marriage in 1990, Mr. Param has worked at several jobs for his family to have great opportunities in Canada. Mr. Param has settled down in a home, purchased in 1997, by himself, in an environment where his two kids could be raised with care in Ajax. Anwar is very proud of his family and misses them more and more everyday.

Due to Mr. Param’s present situation, he has been attending classes for anger management for domestic assault at the Family Service Association, tel: (416) 555-9186. This program is voluntary and goes for 18 weeks. He has also been seeing a psychiatrist and has been taking the advice given to heart. I have been keeping in touch with Anwar everyday to hear about his productive day and what his activities were. Anwar arranges to see his kids and his mother and wishes to be back in their lives in the near future.

If you need any further information, please contact me at (905) 555-6782.

Thank you.


Sameer Kumar

My client, Dwayne Jaffar, had pleaded guilty to importing a narcotic. He was caught attempting to smuggle nearly one kilogram of cocaine into Canada. The Crown was seeking a penitentiary sentence and I was asking the judge not to send my client to jail. For the offence that Dwayne had committed, a penitentiary sentence was the norm. Keeping him out of jail would be extremely difficult. In the end, Dwayne was not sentenced to jail. The following letter of personal reference was relied upon at his sentencing hearing.

215 Bilker Road

Apartment #556

Toronto, Ontario

M3J 2X9

June 13, 1998

To the Judge:

This is a letter by I, Arthur Ritchie, on behalf of Dwayne Jaffar. I have personally known Dwayne for 12 years now. I have witnessed his maturation from a boy into a man first hand. Dwayne and I went through high school together. It was there in school where I saw Dwayne’s character. Dwayne, never in his whole secondary career, got into any trouble. As a matter of fact, I watched Dwayne through his hard work and positive attitude, excel academically. In his four years at our school, he would give his spare time to help set up for school functions and events. Dwayne also devoted his spare time to tutor me as well as a couple of others that had difficulties in mathematics. And since high school, Dwayne has helped me on countless occasions. I hold Dwayne responsible for me acquiring my three job positions at M.C. Accounting, Johnstone Temps, and my current position now at Franklin Bookkeeping Services. Now being that Dwayne did in fact break the law, due to what I feel was a b! ad influence, I fell that prison time will not help Dwayne in the least bit. I don’t just state this due to our friendship but I truly believe this to be true. Taking away Dwayne’s freedom now, at this point in his life, being that he is now attending college will literally destroy him. It is to my understanding that prison terms are laid down to those that either lead a criminal life style and or those that show that rehabilitation is needed. Placing Jermaine in such an environment with negative influences in this atmosphere will just teach him how to become a criminal. That is why I feel that it would be in Dwayne’s best interest to stay out of jail. It is in the interest of the accused to serve a punishment that will not affect his educational path to success. Dwayne’s character is of a dignified, trustworthy and respectable man. I ask that you do not change the direction of Dwayne’s life based on a mistake.


Arthur Ritchie (

How to Write a Character Reference Letter for Use on Sentencing in Canada

If you are pleading guilty ( or are found guilty of a criminal offence in Canada, your lawyer may ask you to obtain 5 or 6 character reference letters for use on sentencing from people who know your general character and reputation in the community. The object of course is to convince the Judge (and perhaps the Crown Attorney) that you are a fine upstanding citizen in the community, that you feel terrible remorse for what you have done, and that the wrongful behaviour will never be repeated.

I suggest approaching long-time family friends, a pastor or priest, a sports coach, fellow employees or an employer, and leaders of community and cultural organizations of which you are a member. You will need to be truthful and tell them the whole story of what happened. They need to know your version of the events and the victim's version too. You'll need to tell them how you feel about what happened and your fears of what the Judge may do on sentencing.

A letter will be very poor and of no use on sentencing if it merely states something like: XYZ has approached me and asked me to write a character reference letter. I recommend XYZ for employment.

A letter will be very helpful if the author is a well-respected person. The letter should contain details of how long you have been known to the author and in what capacity. The letter will be more effective if the author indicates that he or she has seen you recently and frequently in situations related to trust and responsibility. A family member can sometimes be one of several references especially if they are able to report on the individual's long term struggle with a particular problem.

A victim can write a letter, but only of their own volition, NOT AT THE REQUEST OF THE ACCUSED. If in doubt, a victim may want to retain his or her own private lawyer for advice. Accused persons and their families should not initiate contact with victims directly or indirectly. A victim's letter indicating contact during a bail order prohibiting contact can be disastrous.

The letter should not minimize the seriousness of the offence or give excuses such as "the behaviour is simply the result of peer pressure". The letter should note that you recognize the seriousness of the offence (if you do) and its impact on the victim and society as a whole.

The letter should be requested directly by the accused, not by a parent, spouse, or helper. It is only by going to see the author of the letter yourself that you will be able to convince him or her of your acceptance of responsibility and remorse.

The letter can be addressed "To the Court", "To the Honourable Judge", to the defence lawyer, or "To Whom it May Concern". It should be typed on letterhead or good quality paper and SIGNED by the author. At a distance and in an emergency you can use a fax or email but an email (without a signature) carries little weight. There should be two additional copies, one for the defence lawyer and one for the Crown attorney. The original is for the Judge and the copies are for the lawyers.

A letter from a doctor should not be written on a prescription memo.

DO NOT let the accused or his mother type all the letters up in advance and simply ask people to sign them. The author of the letter should prepare it independently of the accused or her parents. Multiple letters should not all be in the same font with the same structure as each other.

DO NOT, however, give a copy to the Crown Attorney or the original to the Judge until you have shown the letter to your defence lawyer or to duty counsel. Sometimes a letter will do more harm than good and you need good legal advice before you use it.

BEWARE that anything you say to your proposed character reference MAY BE USED AGAINST YOU IN COURT. If you bare your soul to someone there is nothing but honour to preclude them from passing the information on to the police. In some cases, individuals such as psychologists, may have a professional responsibility to reveal information you thought was confidential, eg. other child sexual abuse that the police, Crown, and Court don't know about yet.

Your reference is usually welcome to attend Court if he or she so wishes. They usually won't be asked to give evidence but your lawyer may find their attendance of assistance in explaining a unique situation to the Crown or the Court. A reference letter author who attends Court should wear business or church clothing.

11-06-2004, 03:01 PM
I am not in Canada, but going to print this out as an example. Thanks!


11-06-2004, 03:46 PM
Thanks! Good info!

11-06-2004, 07:26 PM
Im not in canada either, but I used this as an example. It's always good to ask the lawyer specifically what he requires (or rather, what would be favourable to the referee in question)- the circumstances of the case, the nature of the crime, possible sentencing and such must be kept in mind when writing out the reference letter.

Good Luck!

Busy B
11-06-2004, 08:21 PM
I have just copied this link and sent it to all of my friends and family. I have actually been working on a Fre Me Book!!!!LOL filled with letters from friends and family members with a photo by each letter. The PO liked it, but my lawyer says it wont make any difference, baloney, it makes me feel good that the judge will see people do care and have faith in the SYSTEM. We all should encourage our closest to do it, just to give the judges something to do other than sentence us!!!

Just flyin by

11-16-2004, 10:28 PM
It has been my experience that Judges do take stuff like this into consideration and even after a conviction they look at the quality of support and relationships that the "offender" has in the community.

11-17-2004, 04:38 PM
Thanks for taking the time to share this info. I appreciate it.

11-19-2004, 02:03 AM
Excellent examples - thank you so much... do you guys think these kind of letters would have an effect on the Parole board as well as sentencing?

11-19-2004, 05:27 AM
Thanks for the posting (the url had other useful information also).
I have no idea as to how different things are in Canada vs the US but interesting post anyway.

11-19-2004, 05:43 AM
I signed the petition on your signature.
Sounds like a petition well worth signing

11-24-2004, 03:34 AM
Excellent examples - thank you so much... do you guys think these kind of letters would have an effect on the Parole board as well as sentencing?

Hi Scryer, in my experience, it has !!!
Stressing on the positive qualities, talents and abililties of the person concerned as well as his potential to improve himself and contribute to society is a definite must.