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Driving Offences Solicitor explains how the driving licence points system works

By Practice Group Leader, Road Traffic Defence

I recently read that some drivers with 30 points are still on the road. This is very much going to be the exception rather than the rule. The relevant area of law here is called ‘exceptional hardship’.

Normally, if someone accumulates 12 penalty points on their driving licence, within a 3 year period, they would automatically be disqualified from driving for a minimum period of 6 months. If the person serves the ban, then their licence is wiped clean of all penalty points. However, in certain circumstances, disqualification can be avoided if it can be proven to the court, on the balance of probabilities that such disqualification would cause the individual, or an innocent third party exceptional hardship.

Simply being at risk of losing one’s employment is often not enough as the intention of this law is to punish the offender and so the Courts will often ask the defendant why they can’t get another job. This sort of application to the Court is not straight-forward or prone success, the courts will always require supporting evidence highlighting or confirming a hardship which may be caused.

The lady from the article currently on 42 points, I believe was already on 12 points when it came to light that 5 other offences of failing to furnish driver ID were pending. Driving Offences such as this offence alone carries 6 points each time it is committed. I can only assume that for her to be on 42 points, she had already successfully applied for exceptional hardship in order to have been on 12 points. I suspect that she then successfully argued a ‘special reason’, which was accepted by the court. In these circumstances, the courts have the discretion to impose a lesser sentence than usual or no sentence at all.  

Clearly we don’t know the detailed facts of this case but the courts decide the outcome of each individual case based on its own merits.

There is not an exhaustive list as to the ‘special reasons’ that can be argued in such cases.

In my experience, ‘exceptional hardship’ and ‘special reasons’ exist for very legitimate reasons and are properly applied by the court. It is wrong to sensationalise a handful of extreme cases or criticise the existing law in this area, especially when it is one area of law where most practitioners agree works very well. 


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