A Freedom of Information Request made to the DVLA, and highlighted by the Institute of Advanced Motorists (“IAM”), reveals that in excess of 7,500 people are still driving with 12 or more penalty points endorsed upon their driving licence.
It has also been revealed that a further 36,000 motorists are on the brink of being liable to a driving disqualification for accumulating 12 or more penalty points within a three year period. Those motorists currently have 9, 10 or 11 relevant penalty points endorsed upon their licence, and one further endorsable offence could result in them appearing before the Courts facing a driving disqualification for a minimum period of 6 months.
In addition, it is reported that 15 drivers have 30 or more points on their licence, with a male motorist from Liverpool totting up 45 points for speeding and failing to give information. Seven of the top 15 penalty point holders are male, whilst two drivers have been caught for using a vehicle uninsured six times. It has also been revealed that a female driver with 38 points has been caught speeding on ten occasions.
The IAM has blamed a breakdown in communication between the Courts and the DVLA for these figures. Sarah Sillars, IAM chief executive officer, said:
“The IAM has been highlighting this issue for several years now and we appreciate that the flow of information between the DVLA and the courts is slowly improving, which will allow the courts to make better decisions while armed with the full facts.”
“However these improvements cannot come quickly enough to deliver a truly joined-up approach to the judicial process. Individual courts making decision on prosecutions can lead to inconsistency in how the law is applied which risks devaluing the simple ‘12 points and you’re out’ road safety message. If the public sees that persistent offenders are getting away with it, they may believe that road traffic rules – which let not us not forget, are designed for their safety – are ineffective or unimportant.”
However, there are invariably circumstances upon which ordinarily compliant motorists find themselves in such an unfortunate position, having reached the 12 point threshold, who have legitimate grounds for avoiding the normal consequences of a conviction. The enacted legislation takes account of such circumstances and provides the Courts to exercise their discretion accordingly.
Under the auspices of the Road Traffic Offenders Act 1988, a motorist with a full UK driving licence who has accrued 12 or more penalty points within a three year period (from the commission dates of the offences) is likely to be subjected to a driving ban for a minimum period of 6 months. The minimum period of disqualification can be reduced or avoided if the court is satisfied on the balance of probabilities, having regard to all the circumstances, that there are grounds for mitigating the normal consequences of the conviction.
Exceptional hardship is one of the grounds for mitigating the normal consequences of the conviction. However, for hardship to be ‘exceptional’ it must be more than is normally suffered as a consequence of a driving disqualification. The onus and burden of proof in demonstrating such exceptional hardship is upon the individual concerned. It is for the court to interpret and assess the merits of each individual case as to whether or not such exceptional hardship circumstances will occur in the event of a driving disqualification.
If the court is satisfied that any or all driving disqualification would cause exceptional hardship, they can exercise their discretion to either impose a shorter disqualification than the minimum period specified in law or choose not to disqualify the individual from driving at all.
If the court takes the individual’s specific circumstances into consideration, and accepts them, when determining whether or not to impose or reduce any driving disqualification, he/she will lawfully be entitled to continue driving, whilst remaining on twelve (or more) penalty points. However, the individual will not be entitled to use such mitigating reasons for the following three years, should they find themselves re-appearing before the Courts for the accumulation of penalty points which meets or exceeds the relevant threshold prescribed by law.
We have an excellent track record in defending individuals who are liable to a driving disqualification under the ‘totting-up’ provisions. This includes, but is not limited to, fully contesting allegations before the Court; preparing and producing mitigation for and on behalf of individuals to successfully persuade the Court to impose a few number of penalty points for a specific offence; make representations inviting the Court to resolve a matter by alternative means than the imposition of penalty points; and if and when necessary, successfully submit grounds of ‘exceptional hardship’ for and on behalf of individuals liable to such a disqualification.
If you are affected by any of the matters raised herein, please contact a dedicated member of our team, who will be more than happy to assist you.