Will mitigation help to reduce my ban?
You will always be given the opportunity to raise mitigation, even if you’re convicted after a trial. However, mitigation may not necessarily be as effective as you may think. This is because the magistrates are bound by the Sentencing Guidelines – meaning they have very little discretion to reduce the disqualification period.
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In reality, mitigation is only worth presenting if you are facing a prison sentence; it may just persuade the court to give you community service instead. The easiest way to find out what punishment the court is likely to impose is to use our Driving Ban Calculator, or download a copy of the Magistrates Court Sentencing Guidelines.
If you are presenting mitigation, you might want to discuss:
- Your employment
- Your family circumstances
- The reason for committing the offence
- The effect the sentence would have on your family.
Character references can be particularly helpful when presenting mitigation in court. Here at M.A.J. Law, we have experienced a great deal of success with the help of character references. The magistrates are usually happy to read a character reference that you provide, before deciding what penalty to impose, and remember, anything that they read may affect their decision.
Character references assist the court in understanding who you are on a personal level. The goal is always to present to the court the genuine character of the accused, and to avoid any aggravating circumstances.
If you think that a character reference may help your case, consider acquiring one from one of the following people:
- A long-term (family) friend
- An employer
- A family member
- An associate
- Someone with recognition (e.g. a priest, doctor, police officer).
How to write a character reference for court
Character references should be original and personal. They must be well balanced and demonstrate thought and consideration. They should aim to focus on a person’s qualities, but also should not be afraid to discuss flaws in the name of accuracy and honesty. No one is perfect and the court know that. A realistic reference will carry far more weight than one that is exaggerated.
Character reference tips
It may be that someone has asked you to write a character reference for a criminal charge. In this situation, there are some important points to consider:
- The reference should be typed (rather than hand written)
- It should also be signed and dated
- Use a letterhead if you have one
- Address the reference to the “Presiding Magistrate” if the matter is listed in the Magistrates’ Court, or the “Presiding Judge” if the matter is listed in the County Court or Supreme Court. If in doubt, address the reference to “Dear Sirs”.
- The reference should be no longer than one page. Keep it interesting and relevant.
What to include in a character reference
The reference should be honest. It should provide a detailed opinion of what a person is like, often in ways that no solicitor – no matter how good – can explain. The following points may help to get you started:
- Introduce yourself & your relationship with the accused
- How long have you known the accused for?
- Your knowledge of the charge
- Your opinion of the accused’s character
- Has the accused shown remorse? In what way?
- Your knowledge of the accused’s driving record.
Character references – the ‘dos and donts’
- Do not tell the court what to do
- Do not suggest a penalty that should be imposed
- Do not be critical of the legal system
- Do not suggest that the accused did not commit the offence
- Do not be unrealistic. The reference must be honest and believable