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How To Write An Apology Letter For Court

A sentencing hearing is held where a person pleads guilty to an offence, or if they are found guilty after a hearing. At this sentencing hearing, the person (or their legal representative) can tender a letter of apology for the Magistrate to consider. Our Solicitors know that a well-drafted letter of apology can have an impact upon the sentence that is imposed by the court.

This page has been designed to assist you in the preparation of an apology letter for court.

How The Letter For Court Should Be Set Out

Ideally, a letter of apology in a Local Court sentence should be one page in length, unless the offence is complicated or extremely serious. A longer letter may be required where there is an unusual set of circumstances, where jail is the likely punishment or where the matter is being dealt with in the District Court.

The formalities that should be complied with when writing a letter of apology include:

  • Addressing the letter to, “The Presiding Magistrate” or “The Presiding Judge” and including the relevant court (for example, “The Presiding Magistrate, Downing Centre Local Court” or “The Presiding Judge, Parramatta District Court”);
  • Ensuring the letter is signed and dated; and
  • Explicit reference to the offence or offences with which the defendant is apologising for.

What Should Be Included?

The most important part of a letter of apology is the apology itself. The apology should be genuine and not copied from any examples you may find online. The best letters of apology are not the ones written with perfect grammar or impressive language. The best letters of apology are the ones that are truly written from the heart – spelling mistakes and all.

The best letters of apology:

  • get straight to the point in explaining what the person is sorry for, and who they wish to apologise to (for example, the Magistrate, the victim or victims, police, ambulance, witnesses or the community at large);
  • include explanations and not excuses (for example, the defendant explaining that they realise that their decision to become intoxicated contributed to them committing the crime and that they don’t seek to rely on alcohol to excuse their behaviour);
  • describe the crimes committed without lessening their seriousness, leaving out facts or trying to paint a more favourable picture of what has occurred;
  • demonstrate an understanding or appreciation of what any victim, the police or other persons affected by the crime have been through because of their actions (for example, injury, emotional or psychological harm, anxiety or stress in relation to dealing with police, lawyers or having to come to court to give evidence);
  • demonstrate an understanding or appreciation of the other consequences that the crime has on the community at large; and
  • explains what the defendant has learned from their crime and why the court can be confident they won’t be back again.

What Should Not Be Included

A letter of apology should not:

  • blame the victim, police or anyone else for the crime or crimes committed or the way in which they acted in connection with the crime or crimes;
  • focus only on the defendant and the hardship they have experienced, or will experience, as a result of their own actions;
  • seek to lessen the seriousness of the offending;
  • include excuses for why the defendant acted the way they did; and
  • include legal submissions about what penalty the Magistrate should impose.
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