Going to court, particularly for the first time, can be a rather daunting experience. There is a number of useful resources linked to below that you should take a look at if you want to know more about going to court.
Film by Raising Your Game – ‘Getting ready for court’
The film below has been produced by the Raising Your Game project, which is led by Mencap.
Character references for sentencing
There is little in the way of official protocol surrounding providing character references. However, it has proven to be useful in cases in the past. You should speak to your solicitor about whether they think they would help. You will probably be required to arrange the references yourself, but given they could help your case this is something you should seriously consider.
Much will depend on how your case is dealt with on the day. For example, your solicitor may not get the chance to get the references in front of the judge, your judge may be changed at last minute, or they may simply not want to consider such references. However, all you can do is try.
References should be in writing from people who have known you for some time and who can comment on you from an impartial perspective if possible. If they know about your offence, this could be useful as they can discuss this in the reference that they write. A suggested template is provided below.
These letters should be provided to your solicitor at least a couple of days before you appear in court for sentencing (you may want to take copies first to keep for your own records).
Ref : [FULL NAME]
To Whom It May Concern
I have known [FULL NAME] as a Colleague/Employee/Family/Friend for X years. During that time, I have always known him/her to be honest, sincere, dependable and a good family person [use suitable wording according to the individual circumstances[. I have never known [NAME] to be anything other than a person of integrity and to find himself/herself in this current situation is completely out of character. [Insert some brief specific details about the offence if known].
I am a (provide here a description which demonstrates that the writer is of good standing, so perhaps ‘local businessman’, ‘Managing Director’, ‘Community Leader’ etc) and am writing this reference in support of [NAME] of my own free will and in the hope that the Court will take into account [NAME]’s previous good character.
Signed [FULL NAME]
Friends and family at court
It can often be useful to have friends and family come with you to court when being sentenced. This not only provides you with moral support, but can also be an important indication to the judge of how much support you have. This can be a positive factor in sentencing.
Disclosure of previous convictions in court proceedings
If you’ve got previous convictions, you might wonder whether these will come up. Find out more here.