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Penalty Points Disqualification  –  John’s case study

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When a motorist has 12 or more penalty points endorsed for offences committed within 3 years of each other s/he becomes liable to a penalty points disqualification of at least 6 months.  Of course, often this would amount to a catastrophe for the motorist who might require his or her licence for work and other essential purposes.  However, once a motorist becomes liable to a penalty points disqualification the only way to avoid a ban is by persuading the court that s/he, or others who depend upon him/her, would suffer from ‘exceptional hardship’.  However, the burden of proving that
exceptional hardship would follow from a ban rests upon the Defendant which s/he can usually only discharge by giving evidence on oath in court.  The standard is a high one as the courts are inundated with motorists who claim they would suffer just such hardship.  Consequently, the courts have set the bar very high; simply claiming that one would lose his or her job is often considered to be inadequate to discharge this burden.  In John’s case the difficulty was even more
pronounced as his case concerned the potential inability to obtain a job!

The Enquiry

John’s parents rang desperately concerned about their 21 year old son who had finished his first year studying paramedic science at university.  He had committed 7 speeding offences over a 3 day period, none of which were at high speed, which would normally result in the endorsement of over 20 penalty points.  In the normal course of events he could expect to receive a penalty points disqualification of 6-10 months unless he could establish ‘exceptional hardship’ in which case the court would have had a discretion either not to ban him at all or to ban him for less than the minimum 6 month period.  John needed his driving licence to attend the ambulance shifts which took place overnight.  He would, of course, also require his driving licence to gain employment as an ambulance driver when his university course ended.  It was explained to his parents that it is normally not possible to avoid a penalty points disqualification unless ‘exceptional hardship’ can be proved and that normally this would be hard to show for any single man (far less one who wouldn’t even immediately suffer loss of job).  However, his parents explained that John had suffered from various mental health conditions throughout his life and that they had to do something even if the odds were against them.

The Conference

John and his parents came to see me for a scheduled meeting.  I took full instructions on John’s circumstances, his aims and ambitions and on the consequences to him of a prolonged disqualification.  I had no hesitation in formally advising that the odds were clearly against him and that his only chance of success was if the court took the view that, given his history of depression and other mental health conditions, in his particular case the damage to his future employment prospects would amount to exceptional hardship.  The family were always aware that the odds would be against them given my initial guidance on the phone.  Now they had been given formal advice that this was likely to be the case. Nevertheless, even if the best result we could realistically expect was that the penalty points disqualification would be limited to the minimum of 6 months, given the number of points he would incur, they felt this would be well worth the effort.  Consequently, I advised on how best to prepare for the hearing.


Many months had elapsed before the case was finally heard at the Magistrates Court.  The defence had prepared a carefully selected bundle of documentation which outlined the Defendant’s history of mental health conditions, their extent, the measures taken to overcome them, the adverse effects on the Defendant himself in his day to day life and on his career hopes and expectations and how they would be dashed if he were to be banned for a prolonged period.   The father’s enquiries had shown that none of the health authorities would employ a new paramedic ambulance driver if he had over 20 points on his licence or if he had been banned for 6 months or more at the age of 21.  Thus his career hopes would have been dashed and, given his vulnerable condition, this could have had a devastating effect upon him.  Fortunately the court agreed to waive the usual requirement that the Defendant be personally required to give evidence on oath and I, as his lawyer, was allowed to outline the entire case on his behalf.

The Ruling

The 3 Magistrates retired to consider their findings.  They ruled, most unusually, that ‘exceptional hardship’ would be caused by a ban of at least 6 months but that they would nevertheless order a 55 day disqualification.  This meant that no penalty points would remain on his driving licence (as a penalty points disqualification, albeit one of reduced length, ‘wipes the licence clean’ of points) but also that he would not receive the usual minimum 6 month ban!  (Usually when submitting ‘exceptional hardship’ the aim is to avoid a ban at all in which case the points endorsed remain on the licence.  However, in John’s particular case if the points had remained on his licence this would have been a disaster).  As either 20 or more points or the usual minimum 6 month penalty points disqualification would have ruled him out from near term employment as an ambulance driver the court had found a middle way in which to keep this young man’s career hopes alive and his life on the course he had set for himself.


From the very first telephone call it was clear that the odds were against anything other than a ban of at least 6 months.  However, given the depth of concern of the parents the matter was progressed to the conference stage where formal advice was tendered.  This confirmed the initial guidance given on the phone that the odds were clearly unfavourable.  However, the court always has a discretion to form its own view in unusual cases.  In John’s case the submission was prepared very thoroughly so that the facts could be presented to the court at their most persuasive.  In the final analysis the parents’ determination to do the very best for their son, despite the odds, paid off.  It is not until full instructions have been taken in conference that the full merits (or demerits) of a case become apparent.  Even then, of course, the eventual ruling will depend on how the court assesses the evidence presented to it in court.  What is essential is that the case is presented as persuasively as possible as this may make all the difference in a borderline case.


If you face a penalty points disqualification and potential ruin do remember you are welcome to call for an initial discussion without obligation.

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