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How To Avoid a Penalty Points Disqualification

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Are you at risk of losing your driving licence due to a Penalty Points Disqualification?

All motorists are, potentially, at risk of a penalty points disqualification (aka a ‘totting’ disqualification).  There has been a massive increase in the number of road side speed cameras over the years which has led to an increase in the frequency with which speeding is prosecuted.  The consequence is that if you exceed the speed limit anywhere on the road network you are at risk of being caught out by a speed camera.  The penalty for speeding ranges from the endorsement of 3 – 6 penalty points to an immediate ban depending on the extent by which a limit was exceeded and the number of points already endorsed on your driving licence.  Usually the registered keeper will then be sent a Notice requiring him/her to identify the driver.  Failure to respond to the Notice appropriately, or at all, is itself punishable with a fine plus the endorsement of a further 6 points.  Then there is a proliferation of offences, from touching a mobile phone to having a bald tyre to crossing a stop line at a traffic light signal (and so on), which all lead to the endorsement of points.  This is why, even careful drivers, can suddenly find themselves on the brink of a 6 month ban (the minimum period of a penalty points disqualification).

What should you do to avoid such a Disqualificaton?

The first and obvious step is, especially once you have some points on your licence, to adopt strategies to avoid the risk of incurring any more endorsements.  So long as you don’t incur 12 or more points for offences committed within 3 years of each other you won’t become liable to a penalty points disqualification.  Do bear in mind that the relevant date, in terms of aggregating points, is not the date you will appear in court but the date(s) upon which the offence(s) were committed.  Thus, the fact that by the time you appear in court more than 3 years will have elapsed since the commission of the first relevant offence will not save you; what is important is whether the offences were committed within 3 years of each other.  Assuming that the offences were committed within this period you can expect that your case will end up in court.  The courts don’t usually disqualify a motorist by way of a penalty points disqualification without giving him/her the option of attending court (given that the consequences of loss of licence can be so dire).  So, what should you do if your case is heading for court?

At court

You will not be sentenced for an offence unless you have either tendered a ‘Guilty’ plea or the court has not received a response from you to the prosecution (in which case you could be convicted of the offence in your absence) or you have been convicted following a trial.  In any event, the court will usually ensure that you have the opportunity to attend court to argue your case for avoiding a disqualification.  However, the grounds upon which one can avoid a penalty points disqualification require you to surpass a high hurdle; you would have to be able to prove to the court that you would suffer ‘exceptional hardship’.  As you are seeking to persuade the court not to enact the usual penalty of a minimum 6 month ban the burden of proving that you would suffer such hardship rests upon you, the Defendant.  In criminal cases the burden of proof is usually on the prosecution, however, this is a rare situation in which the burden of proof moves to the Defence.  So, how do you prove that you would suffer ‘exceptional hardship’?

Exceptional Hardship

The court follows both case law, previous cases which establish legal guidance, and formal sentencing guidelines in order to make its finding.  There is no formal single list of circumstances which can be said to amount to ‘exceptional hardship.  Rather each case turns on its own facts.  However, a very common thread in such cases is that the Defendant would lose his/her job if banned and that he/she has a dependent family (and variations upon this theme).  Given that this would apply to such a large proportion of the population the courts are advised to be cautious before finding that ‘exceptional hardship’ would occur in such cases (because it is not an ‘exceptional’ situation but rather a very common one).  This doesn’t mean that a court couldn’t find ‘exceptional hardship’ in such a case just that it will look at each situation in detail to determine whether the hardship is really exceptional.  There is an infinite variety of situations that can occur and the effects upon Defendants of similar sets of circumstances can vary in each case.  Thus it can be difficult, from the motorist’s own subjective viewpoint, to assess his/her prospects of success in court.  Therefore, it is critical to understand, from an objective and informed standpoint, how the court is likely to view such situations as well as to understand how best to prepare one’s case for court (especially as similar borderline cases will undoubtedly lead to different outcomes in different courts depending on how well they have been prepared and how skilfully they have been presented.)

Conclusion

Penalty Points Disqualifications for a minimum of 6 months are the nightmare outcome that so many motorists are desperate to avoid.  Your prospects of avoiding such a ban depend on, firstly, your circumstances and of those around you or of those who are dependent upon you, and, secondly, on how well your case is prepared and presented in court.  The rules state that in the vast majority of cases the Defendant will be expected to give live evidence on oath in court.  Thus, how well you understand the process and the factors that the court will take into account for or against you is likely to have a critical effect upon your prospects of winning your case.  If your driving licence, and consequently, your job or livelihood is at issue, the stakes are enormous.  Therefore, you may think that obtaining specialist advice is the obvious next step.

If you need an introductory conversation, without obligation, with an expert who specialises exclusively in this field then please don’t hesitate to get in touch.

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