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All you need to know about Penalty Points Disqualifications

totting up

What is a Penalty Points Disqualification?

The penalties for committing motoring offences commonly include the power to disqualify from driving.  However, it is more usual, unless an offence is regarded as particularly serious, for the court to consider the endorsement of penalty points and a fine instead.  The court cannot both disqualify a motorist from driving and order points to be endorsed on his or her licence for the same offence. It is a case of one or the other.  However, where the number of points totals 12 or more for the commission of a series of offences this gives rise to a power in the court to disqualify the motorist for a minimum of 6 months (often for longer if the tally reached exceeds 12).  This is known as a ‘penalty points’ or ‘totting’ disqualification.  

Which Penalty Points are Taken into Account?

Whatever points are endorsed on a motorist’s licence for any given offence are added together with any other penalty points for offences committed within 3 years of each other.  When the total reaches 12 or more the motorist becomes liable to a penalty points or ‘totting’ disqualification.  This is a draconian sentence as the disqualification is for a minimum of 6 months despite the severity of the consequences that can follow.

Can a Penalty Points Disqualification be avoided?

Yes.  The law takes into account that uniformly imposing the same sentence on all motorists can lead to injustice in the cases of those who would be caused ‘exceptional hardship’.  This is a legal concept which has no statutory definition, the meaning of which can be found in numerous past reported cases.  Each case turns on its own facts. The burden of proving it rests upon the motorist. However, if he or she can establish, by calling evidence in court, that exceptional hardship would be caused by such a long period of disqualification the court has a discretion either not to ban at all or to ban for a shorter period than would otherwise be the case.  It is important to note that adverse consequences to others, as well as to the motorist, can also be taken into account.


The law of motoring offences can be complex and technical as well as draconian.  However, don’t give up hope if the tally of penalty points on your licence has reached 12 or more.  If you can gather the evidence that you would suffer exceptional hardship and persuade the court that this is the case you may yet be able to avert the full severity of an extended disqualification.

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4 thoughts on “All you need to know about Penalty Points Disqualifications”

  1. Is the only way to avoid a 12 point ban by arguing exceptional hardship?

    Also, your informative blogs are very helpful, they’re succinct and accessible to the everyday reader. Much appreciated!

    1. Yes, once you get to 12 points then the ban is mandatory unless you can establish ‘exceptional hardship’ in which case there is then a discretion not to ban or to ban for a shorter period. Thank you for your kind comments.

      1. What constitutes “exceptional hardship”? Is this something I can argue for myself or do I need expert help to make the case?

        1. ‘Exceptional Hardship’ is defined by case law ie previous cases which the courts use as guidance in order to help them assess whether the case they are considering currently falls into that particular category. The better your understanding of which of the past cases are relevant to your situation the better your prospects of success as you are then able to mould your case around principles which have already been approved of by the courts. You should also be mindful that you can expect to be questioned in court on oath about your claims. Having a good understanding of how best to express yourself in response can be an invaluable advantage. You can, of course, represent yourself but if you engage someone to advise you and put forward your case who specialises in this field you are likely to markedly improve your prospects of success.

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