By Paul Loughlin, a motoring law specialist and solicitor at the national law firm, Stephensons
The case of the driver who clocked up 62 points on his licence and was still allowed to drive has been attracting a huge amount of attention recently.
While this particular case is certainly at the extreme end of the spectrum, instances where individuals are permitted to drive with more than 12 penalty points are not as rare as some might expect.
In theory, a driver could still be permitted to drive with any number of penalty points. This is because accruing 12 points – contrary to popular belief – does not necessarily mean a mandatory ban from driving. Instead, the court can be invited to consider the merits of imposing a ban based only on the facts of that specific case and the personal circumstances of the offender. It is up to the driver to persuade the judge why he or she should be allowed to continue driving.
This argument is known as ‘exceptional hardship’. Often, professional drivers, or those who spend a lot of time on the road – like couriers or sales reps – are able to claim that being unable to drive would have a severe effect on their ability to earn, maybe even that they will lose their job. This can be especially persuasive when the individual has children to support, or other dependants.
However, for a driver to be still on the road with 62 points accrued, some other factor must have been at play. My best guess is that the offences took place in a relatively short space of time – perhaps even over the course of a few days.
I’ve known cases where individuals have committed a spate of offences, one after the other, without realising. This might be because police have set up a mobile camera unit somewhere along their usual route, or a speed camera has been activated where previously it was out of use.
If we imagine that a driver is caught speeding twice a day – once on the way to work and once on the way home – he or she could easily accrue 30 or more penalty points in a five day period, many more than the 12 required for a court to consider a driving ban.
While the court would still take a dim view of these offences, this would constitute a mitigating circumstance and can help put the number of points into context. It could be suggested that the driver was not a habitual offender and the circumstances in which the offences were committed should take precedent over the number of points.
While an exceptional hardship argument will consider any impact on livelihood as a consequence of a ban, the circumstances of the offences might help persuade the court to consider if there are grounds to disqualify the driver for a shorter period, or not at all.