Totting Up Penalty Points: Is a Six-Month Driving Ban Still a Proportionate Response?

by Lucy Whitaker Speeding Offences Driving Offences Court Cases Driving Bans Driving Licences

Accumulate 12 or more penalty points on your licence within a three year period and you’ll face a minimum six-month totting ban. You may lose your job as a result, but that in itself may not be enough to persuade the courts to show leniency.

A recent consultation (which appears to have been circulated among magistrates) reiterates that “loss of employment will not in itself necessarily amount to exceptional hardship”.  This is trite law for motoring solicitors, but in recent times it appears that the goalposts have moved further down the field. The number of times I have heard the chairman of the bench announce that “loss of a job is not exceptional hardship” completely missing the “not necessarily” part out of the equation, is too many to count.

It used to be the case that where a person had spent time building up a career, investing many years study, graft and money, the loss of this career could, of itself amount to exceptional hardship. Recently the courts have been far less willing to accept this as an argument, preferring instead to stick rigidly to a formula which appears to require the defendant to demonstrate that he would lose literally everything before exceptional hardship is found.

While I do not condone the commission of speeding, or any motoring offence, it must be remembered that a six-month ban can ruin people’s lives. For someone driving multiples of the average person’s annual mileage, it is far easier to accumulate points while still being a generally safe driver.

One thing I have just found out through searching online is that when the current legislation on totting up, namely the Road Traffic Act 1988, was enacted in 1989, there were no static speed cameras! The only way of enforcing speed limits was by using laser speed guns. The first speed cameras were not installed until 1991! How much easier it must have been to avoid totting up.

I saw the following anonymous quote on the Justice of the Peace Blog and, although it is old, I think it sums it up perfectly:

“As a serving Magistrate, we should be seeking to do justice and not applying rules in a tick box fashion. People get points on their licences for all sorts of different offences and for reasons that do not always put others at risk. Again there is a huge difference between someone losing their licence in a city environment where there is plenty of public transport and those who might be at risk of losing their licence in a rural community where there is little or, in some cases, no public transport whatsoever. A degree of proportionality should also be considered. Depending on the offences, is losing your licence and your job and also possibly your home proportional to the offences committed? Finally, might offenders behaviour be modified by the fact that those who are successful in pleading exceptional circumstances are then driving around with 12 or more points on their licence in the knowledge that they cannot use the same reasons again and that any offence of any kind will almost certainly result in the loss of their licence. Might this be a better contribution towards road safety than potentially ruining someone's life.”

I encourage more magistrates to adopt this way of thinking.

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