Driving ban warning: Motorists more likely to be banned as courts crackdown on offenders

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Drivers who accumulate 12 or more points “must” be banned by the courts for a minimum period unless there are exceptional measures in place. The updates to Section 35 of the Road Traffic Offenders Act 1988 mean that the driver must prove that losing a licence would be more than an inconvenience.

Where evidence exists the courts “must be satisfied” that a driver losing their right to drive would be of “exceptional hardship”.

Courts must also take into account whether the offender would be able to use alternative modes of transport instead of driving.

The Sentencing Council warns that the loss of employment would be an “inevitable consequence” but would not be sufficient to return a licence.

The new guidelines state: “Almost every disqualification entails hardship for the person disqualified and their immediate family.

“This is part of the deterrent objective of the provisions combined with the preventative effect of the order not to drive.

“If a motorist continues to offend after becoming aware of the risk to their licence of further penalty points, the court can take this circumstance into account.

“Courts should be cautious before accepting assertions of exceptional hardship without evidence that alternatives (including alternative means of transport) for avoiding exceptional hardship are not viable.

“Loss of employment will be an inevitable consequence of a driving ban for many people.

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“Evidence that loss of employment would follow from disqualification is not in itself sufficient to demonstrate exceptional hardship.

“Whether or not it does will depend on the circumstances of the offender and the consequences of that loss of employment on the offender and/or others.”

The Sentencing Council says that offenders will be disqualified for six months if they have had no previous “totting up” convictions.

Drivers could be banned for two years if they were found to be a repeat offender.

However, the Sentencing Council also warns that shorter penalties could be issued under some circumstances

They warn that where courts find there are grounds for mitigating the normal consequences, shorter periods of disqualification could be offered.

The detailed plans come into effect after a consultation was launched by the Sentencing Council in January.

There has been some vague guidance on the exceptional hardship rule but the changes offer more details.

The new measures are introduced after requests from magistrates to bolster the rules to provide greater clarity.

Earlier this year data from the DVLA revealed that more than 9,000 drivers held onto their licence despite having 12 or more points.

The data released in April showed that 9,349 road users still had a valid licence despite picking up enough points for a ban.

The DVLA has previously said: “In a small percentage of cases where the driver has 12 or more penalty points, a court can exercise its discretion and not disqualify the driver.

“In the majority of these cases, magistrates or sentencers may have decided to allow drivers to retain their entitlement to drive where it is considered that disqualification would cause exceptional hardship.”

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