A study has shown that between 7,000 to 8,000 motorists in England per year have accrued more than 12 points on their driving license. This allows them to avoid getting disqualified through a loophole within the legal system.

After accumulating a certain number of points, total bans on driving were issued to 142,275 persons between 2017-2021.

A further 35 569 drivers were permitted to stay on the roads after they told judges that they would face “exceptional hardship” if they couldn’t drive.

According to Cycling UK research, almost one-fifth of drivers who have 12 points or greater are exempt from bans.

Between 7,000 and 8,000 motorists in England a year who have accrued  enough points to lose their licence are avoiding disqualification by using a loophole in the legal system

Between 7,000 and 8,000 motorists in England a year who have accrued  enough points to lose their licence are avoiding disqualification by using a loophole in the legal system

The Parliamentary Question by Labour Peer Lord Berkeley revealed, among other things that there had been 83.581 instances of people who were exempted from a ban because of’mitigating conditions’ in the period 2011-2020.

That’s one fifth (8,358) of drivers who are able to escape bans with at least 12 points every year.    

Over a period of three years, licence holders with more than 12 points on their license for motoring offenses like speeding (three-to-six points) or drinking (three-to-11 points) will be disqualified for six months.

Courts have the discretion to permit offenders to drive if there are extenuating circumstances. This includes when they lose their job or face financial difficulties.

Cycling safety charity joined Lord Berkeley, along with a number of other bodies and organizations calling on the UK to end the extraordinary hardship loophole. 

According to the bill, government can do this through the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill, currently being discussed in the House of Lords. 

Berkeley said, “Excluding 1 in 5 drivers is not right; it should only be 1 in 5 hundred.” 

“At this time, anybody who is able to pay a loophole attorney can join the 85,000 drivers who get away. Drivers should consider the consequences of breaking the law before driving.

Motorists who accrue a dozen or more points in a 3-year period for motoring offences such as speeding and drink-driving should - by law - receive a disqualification for at least 6 months

A disqualification of at least six months should be given to motorists who have accrued a minimum of 12 points over a three-year period due to driving offences like speeding or drink-driving.

A report was published by the cycling charity, detailing cases of motorists killing road users. 

The report also included cases of Lee Martin, and Louis McGovern who were both victims of people who, despite numerous offences, managed to avoid driving bans through claiming “exceptional hardship”.

Lee Martin was a father of two aged 48 years. He died while riding on the A31 through Hampshire in August 2015. 

Christopher Gard drove a van and hit the man. He was texting at 65 mph while driving. 

Gard, who had accrued 12 points over a year for offenses related to driving with a mobile phone, was not subject to a driving ban six weeks prior.

One in five drivers exempt [from a ban]It is incorrect; one in five hundred should have it.

Louis McGovern (age 30) was returning from Stockport on his motorbike when Kurt Sammon struck him and pulled him under a van. Sammon had just jumped the red light. 

Sammon also had been making calls and sending messages before the accident. 

Sammon, who was caught driving on the motorway with a mobile phone three months before, appeared in court. 

In 2004, he was sentenced to six months in jail for the murder of Michael Weaver (13-year-old boy) while driving with no insurance and MOT. He also failed to report or stop for an accident. 

Sammon, in spite of his history of dangerous driving was able to argue that losing his driver’s license would have an adverse effect on his job and the care responsibilities he has towards his mother.

Louis McGovern’s father, Mark, wrote to North Cheshire magistrates to ask why, despite his appalling driving record, Sammon was allowed to keep his licence when he appeared before them. 

The magistrates admitted that ‘No formal risk assessments are carried out, however magistrates are made aware of the details of any endorsements that are on an individual’s driving licence, though it doesn’t include details as to the facts of those cases’.

Mark stated that it was shocking to learn that only 1/5 drivers retain their licenses by filing an exceptional hardship claim when they are facing driving bans under the totting-up process.

Between 2011 and 2020 there were 83,581 cases of people who had totted-up a licence-losing volume of points but avoided a ban due to 'mitigating circumstances'

In the period 2011-2020, there were 83.581 instances of individuals who had collected a large number of points on their licences but didn’t get banned due to “mitigating circumstances”.

Duncan Dollimore is the head of campaign at the charity. He stated that the system was’manifestly failing’.

He added: ‘We’ve got courts treating inconvenience as exceptional hardship and a legal loophole that costs lives is making a mockery of the supposedly automatic totting up ban.

‘We’ve no assessment of risks when magistrates make these decisions to allow someone to carry on driving, but they are accepting bland assertions that losing a licence will cause them difficulties.

‘It’s families such as Louis McGovern’s and Lee Martin’s who really suffer exceptional hardship when the courts put the retention of someone’s licence to drive above road safety, allowing irresponsible people to carry on driving until they cause further harm or death on the roads.’ 

Cycling UK’s report follows a PA revelation that 8632 September registered drivers had at least 12 points to their driving licence.

Brake Road Safety Charity said it was “appalling” that these drivers haven’t been banned. Leaders of the police said they should change laws so that drivers are not granted exonerations in court.

The new 12-point driver rules are not working. 

According to the DVLA, drivers who have 12 points can only keep their license if they are in a very small number of cases. These mostly include situations that would result in disqualification causing ‘exceptional hardship.

According to the Government, it’s up to the courts to evaluate each case and decide whether there are mitigating circumstances that justify disqualification. A defendant’s past record must also be considered in dealing with exceptional hardship applications.

The Sentencing Council last year published new Magistrates’ Court sentencing guidelines to prevent motorists from claiming disqualification from driving will result in ‘exceptional financial hardship’.

Section 35 of the Road Traffic Offenders Act 1988 states drivers who incur 12 or more penalty points on a driving licence must be disqualified for at least six months unless ‘the court is satisfied, having regard to all the circumstances, that there are grounds for mitigating the normal consequences of the conviction and thinks fit to order him to be disqualified for a shorter period or not to order him to be disqualified’.

Although there is some guidance available for magistrates about how the exceptional hardship rule can be applied to them, many people are calling for more specific explanations of how they should handle this issue.

A lengthy discussion with the Ministry of Justice’s legal professionals resulted in a detailed list of guidelines that must be used for drivers with more than 12 points.

According to the Sentencing Council, a loss of employment due to a driving disqualification is not sufficient for exceptional hardship.

The offenders are now required to show that their loss of their license was more than an inconvenience.

“Almost all disqualifications result in hardship for both the individual disqualified as well as their immediate family. The updated guidelines explain that this is part of both the deterrent effect and the preventative effects of the order to not drive.

This adds that if a motorist continues infraction after being made aware of the potential risk to their license of additional penalty points, then the court will consider this.

“Courts should not accept claims of exceptional hardship without proof that other options (including alternate means of transportation) for avoiding extraordinary hardship are feasible.

The statement added that the driving ban will have an inevitable effect on many people and result in loss of job.

“Evidence that a loss of job would result from disqualification alone is not sufficient to prove exceptional hardship. Whether or not it does depends on the situation of the offender as well as the consequences for the offender/or others.

Although the revised guidelines went into effect on October 1, 2020, many drivers are still able to retain their licenses even though they have accumulated more than 12 points.


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