What does ‘Good Character’ mean?

January 24, 2018

The term ‘character’ is often used in criminal law, mostly determining whether someone is a good or bad character. A ‘bad character’ is someone who could have their previous convictions used against them in order to persuade a jury that they are guilty. If someone does not have any previous convictions, to their advantage, they could be referred to as being of ‘good character’. A good character direction is given to the jury by the judge in summing up at the end of a trial.

How are ‘good characters’ defined?

A ‘good character’ is defined as someone who is clear of any previous convictions.  However the outcome of their trial will still depend on any evidence that has been used against them.   Even if you do have previous convictions, you could still be deemed to be of ‘effective good character’, for example where your convictions are outdated or irrelevant enough that they are put aside for the purposes of the jury.   ‘Absolute good character’ is the term used when describing someone who has no previous convictions.

One way in which you can use your good character to your advantage would be to think carefully who your character witnesses could be. Character witnesses are people who will speak openly and positively about you, and know you well.  There are 2 forms of ‘good character’ evidence: 1 relating to the issue, (whether the defendant committed the offence or not), and 2 relating to credibility, (whether the defendant is telling the truth or not).   The key thing about good character evidence is that it should seek to address aspects of your character which relate to one of these two issues in the case.

This is an example of a full ‘good character’ direction:

“You have heard that the defendant is a man in his middle years with no previous convictions. Good character is not a defence to the charges but it is relevant to your consideration of the case in two ways. First, the defendant has given evidence. His good character is a positive feature of the defendant which you should take into account when considering whether you accept what he told you. Secondly, the fact that the defendant has not offended in the past may make it less likely that he acted as is now alleged against him.”

At Tuckers Solicitors we are proactive in our rather than simply responding to a prosecution case. We take great care in ensuring that we fully prepare and put together a powerful defence, including considerations about good or bad character. Our offices are open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, ready to deliver immediate and expert legal advice and representation.

If you have any queries about good or bad characters, or are looking to speak to one of our highly experienced lawyers, please contact Adam Makepeace at makepeacea@tuckerssolicitors.com or on 020 7388 8333 to be signposted to the best person in your area to assist you with your case.

Departments involved: