Nearly half of motorists with 12 or more penalty points on licence allowed to keep driving by the courts

"Exceptional hardship" trumps 12 points should be a ban magistrate's guidelines

by Simon_MacMichael   September 20, 2011  


More than 10,000 motorists in Great Britain are still driving despite having amassed 12 or more penalty points on their driving licences after convincing courts they would suffer "exceptional hardship" if banned from driving. With getting on for half of those facing a ban getting around it in this way, the definition of "exceptional" appears rather loose to say the least. The figures, obtained under the Freedom of Information Act, show that seven people are still allowed to drive despite having racked up more than 30 points.

The data, secured by the Independent on Sunday from the DVLA, show that 13,449 of the country’s motorists are currently banned from driving by a court after collecting 12 or more penalty points, with a six-month disqualification typically imposed in cases where those points have been amassed over a period of three years or less.

However, some 10,072 drivers are still allowed to drive despite having accrued a dozen or more points, with many of them persuading the courts that losing their licence would result in undue hardship.

That translates into 43 per cent of drivers who have 12 points or more on their licence. In all, 3.8 million people who hold driving licences currently have penalty points.

Sentencing Council Guidelines provide that for some offences, such as driving while under the influence of drink or drugs, a ban of a year or more is mandatory, but the courts have discretion in cases in which 12 points or more have been totted up over a period of time.

In such cases, a six-month ban is discretionary, with the courts permitted to waive a ban in circumstances in which it would cause “exceptional hardship” to the driver, or others who depend on the motorist such as their family or employees in the case of a business owner.

The newspaper cites examples of drivers who have escaped a ban in such circumstances recently, including a taxi driver in Wiltshire who avoided a ban in May after reaching 12 points following a conviction for driving without insurance. The driver had said that if he were banned, he would suffer exceptional hardship, including losing his job.

According the Independent on Sunday, while police acknowledge that there is an issue with repeat offenders, reduced budgets for road traffic policing mean that it would be “ineffective” to ban repeat offenders since it would be impossible to enforce.

“There is anecdotal evidence emerging of a rise in driving offences and bad driving behaviour which we put down to a reduction of police force roads policing units in recent years and the lack of police patrol on the motorway network,” said Stephen White of the Police Federation.

“The reality is, while courts could ban as many people as they consider appropriate, without sufficient police officer enforcement it may be largely ineffective."

However, Neil Greig, director of policy and research at road safety charity IAM insists that motorists whose licences are endorsed with a dozen points or more should not be allowed to drive.

"In our view, 12 points should lead to a ban," he told the newspaper. "Anything above that risks bringing the whole system into disrepute. Clearly any court can hear mitigating circumstances but anyone with points on their licence can hardly plead ignorance of the law, having already had interaction with the points system."

Meanwhile, magistrates claim that some people are able to avoid bans in circumstances where the courts do not have complete access to their records at the time the case is being heard.

Chris Hunt-Cooke, chairman of the Magistrates' Association road traffic committee, explained: “Hardship to others is more significant than to the driver himself, as those others have nothing to do with his offences. Naturally the court is dependent on full information being available to it on the day it is considering disqualification."

The DVLA for its part insists that it is seeking to improve the flow of information between itself and the courts, with a spokesperson saying: "The DVLA's role is to record the information provided by the courts. We recently concluded a review into how we communicate with the courts, and will implement any necessary changes to make sure that there are rigorous processes in place so that only those who are entitled to drive are allowed to hold a licence."

While it may be difficult to conceive of what the impact of 10,000 such drivers might be at local level, the Islington Gazette made its own request under the Freedom of Information Act, and learnt that 32 motorists in the London Borough of Islington were continuing to drive despite having 12 or more points on their licence.



23 user comments

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Having read about this situation before I think the whole system is farcical and just goes to show that despite all the media attention on the "war on the motorist" the whole criminal justice system is setup to treat motorists so carefully that they can literally get away with murder with just a slap on the wrist.

Anyone who mounts up 12 points clearly is a poor driver, if being without your car would cause "exceptional hardship" then maybe you should start using it as the law permits.

As for the people with 30 points why on earth are they still driving? Couldn't the system be changed so that at 12 points *if* being without the car would cause "exceptional hardship" then the courts could POSTPONE the ban however any additional points beyond that result in gradually longer bans and possibly a need for retraining and testing (at a hugely inflated price in the middle of the working week....)

Drivers need to realize that they are in charge of rather heavy machines which are capable of seriously hurting and killing other people and treat them as the potentially lethal weapons they are.

posted by bassjunkieuk [31 posts]
20th September 2011 - 8:57


Absolutely unbelievable that the courts let so many people off like this. Angry

I have to agree with bassjunkieuk that you have to a poor driver to get 12 points. So a ban is a good deterrent, but only if it is enforced.
A punichment is meant to involve hardship.

while police acknowledge that there is an issue with repeat offenders, reduced budgets for road traffic policing mean that it would be “ineffective” to ban repeat offenders since it would be impossible to enforce

So do the Police also give up on other laws that are difficult to enforce?

posted by thereverent [351 posts]
20th September 2011 - 10:00


Zero tolerance would be an awfully good teacher when 'exceptional hardship' is endured.


antonio's picture

posted by antonio [1103 posts]
20th September 2011 - 10:20


Wow once you get over 30 points on your licence, what is insurance going to cost?

I often think the points system is a little inflexible, why do the always come in 3s. No one ever gets 1 point for doing 33 or cutting someone out or 4 points for driving that little bit quicker than the other speeders who got 3 points.

You are meant to get 3 points for each bald tyre, I had a scary moment a couple of years ago when I went in for 4 new tyres and discovered that the inner half of my existing tyres were worse than I thought, had I been stopped on the way to the garage i could have gone from 0 to 12 points in an instant - should this single offence be the same as as someone who breaks the speed limit on 4 seperate occasions.

Needless to say I am a damn sight more careful with my tyres since then.

posted by EK Spinner [54 posts]
20th September 2011 - 10:22


This is rather alarming news. It begs the question as to whether the legal system is fully considering the risks of bad driving. To amass 12 points you do have to be pretty careless. Plenty of people get points here or there for this or that and for good drivers at least, this brings them down to earth and encourages them to ensure they don't get more. Surely the greater common good would see most of these people banned for 12 months or more.


posted by OldRidgeback [2551 posts]
20th September 2011 - 10:45


It's symptomatic of our relationship with cars. The hardship associated with not being able to drive trumps the consequences of people being careless or aggressive with the ton of metal they're in charge of. Depressing news.

posted by Chuck [482 posts]
20th September 2011 - 11:40


So if your job involves driving, then you're less likely to be banned from driving if you accrue 12 points, since you plea "exceptional hardship". Maybe if you were guaranteed a ban, then taxi drivers might be more careful than other drivers?

two wheels good; four wheels bad

posted by cat1commuter [1431 posts]
20th September 2011 - 12:10


So, have I got this right. You can be a sloppy driver causing harm to all other road users and all you have to plea is hardship and his honour will just add to the points that you already have. All the so called 'professional' drivers are probably rubbing their hands in glee at this one. Again the system leans heavily to the automobile Angry

giff77's picture

posted by giff77 [1175 posts]
20th September 2011 - 12:36


Someone I know was stopped whilst speeding in his hire car in Australia. Apparently the rozzers over there have the power to issue instant bans, as he was kicked out of his motor and made to get a taxi to pick him up, then arrange a recovery vehicle to return the car to the hire company.

Maybe if the Police had those sort of powers in the UK, and drivers were aware of it, then people might be less inclined to tempt fate in the first place.

posted by jarderich [91 posts]
20th September 2011 - 12:47

1 Like

ah yes jarderich but if they had those powers over here imagine the traffic chaos caused by all the abandoned vehicles everywhere… would the tow truck be able to get through? Thinking

Tony Farrelly's picture

posted by Tony Farrelly [4201 posts]
20th September 2011 - 12:52


I was told by a director of a company I was consulting to in the mid 90's in Sweden, that (at that time) their police had the power to ban on the spot and they felt no compunction in enforcing it. In the UK it would mean that your "human rights" had been violated so it's a no go. Plus I'm not sure anyone has yet created a speed camera that could do this.

And how do we think that the magistrates in these cases get to court. The car is the new god and it's worshippers can do no wrong.

I like the comment about how much does your insurance cost if you have 30 points. I'd assume; A) the same as someone with no points as they aren't declared or B) Nothing at all, if you can get to 30 points I suspect things like insurance and road vehicle excise duty are things that "all you other suckas" bother with.

And no I wasn't using l=that as any form of racial slur, it was supplied in the street lingo of the scum bag, so probably you can accuse me of scumbagism and I will happily accept the critisism.

bikeandy61's picture

posted by bikeandy61 [483 posts]
20th September 2011 - 13:13





And why in the name of fdsfuhebvr doesn't a taxi driver who's got 12 points and is caught without insurance automatically lose his taxi license, let alone his driving license?

At Wits End At Wits End At Wits End

posted by Matt_S [226 posts]
20th September 2011 - 14:13


It really is time to end the culture of The Sacred Driving Licence as I pointed out back in May...

posted by Kim [200 posts]
20th September 2011 - 17:20


EK Spinner wrote:
Wow once you get over 30 points on your licence, what is insurance going to cost?

Nothing! Don't bother having insurance - if you get caught it just means a few more points... in fact, why bother having a license at all??


posted by Michael5 [121 posts]
20th September 2011 - 18:04


According to something I've read, you can only use the 'hardship' excuse *ONCE*. If you get more points after that, you go to Magie's again and you have to come up with a different reason or you get a ban. Clearly this rule is not being enforced...


posted by stewieatb [299 posts]
20th September 2011 - 21:20


This is not a rhetorical question, nor I am simply being sarcastic; but can anyone tell me if "exceptional hardship" either to the individual convicted or his/her dependents apply in non-motor related crimes? For example, if an individual stabs an innocent person or robs a bank they tend to go to jail. Does the judge ever consider the hardship that the dependents may have by this action? Or even in less serious offences where a fine is the outcome; can someone plead that paying a fine will cause hardship to his familly and get a reduced fine?

bike ie's picture

posted by bike ie [10 posts]
20th September 2011 - 21:32


So, people who get points for breaking laws placed for safety of other road users can get back on the road pleading 'exceptional hardship'.

Way I read it, courts are saying that not causing hardship to a proven offender is more important than the safety of other road users.

No wonder the cyclist hunters get off lightly in these courts...


rbx's picture

posted by rbx [243 posts]
20th September 2011 - 21:47

1 Like

The example of that cab driver infuriates me even more.

Dude, if you were negligent enough to get 12 points as a driver, find another occupation! You are a risk to yourself, other road users and those passengers who're paying you Confused

Also, would be a good idea for the cabbies, truckers, etc to be made to display their insurance and points gathered on license in the cab. Give the customers a right to refuse to pay if either of them are out of order (expired insurance or points > 12).


rbx's picture

posted by rbx [243 posts]
20th September 2011 - 21:51


I like the idea about having to display the number of points on the car - perhaps as a warning triangle on the car, so that other road users can take precautions?

This is truly scandalous and kind of puts paid to stories about motorists getting a hard time.


robbieC's picture

posted by robbieC [62 posts]
20th September 2011 - 22:10


The reason I ask the question -see above- (anyone got an answer?)

If the answer is Yes, then this thread is irrelevant; there is no bias in favour of motorists (but perhaps a case to suggest there should be, if so; it has not been made in this article).

If the answer is No; then this should be challenged. This is discrimination favouring the offenders involved in motor related crime and an injustice to the general public, specificaly those that do not drive a motor vehicle.

bike ie's picture

posted by bike ie [10 posts]
20th September 2011 - 23:54


bike ie wrote:
This is discrimination favouring the offenders involved in motor related crime and an injustice to the general public, specificaly those that do not drive a motor vehicle.

I think we all know the answer is no. The system is heavily in favour of the motorist. We see this consistantly in various reports in this forum. 3 points for injuring a cyclist here, a £20 fine for knocking over a pedestrian there. The argument that none but a car be on the roads regardless that the roads are paid for through general taxation!! The consistancy of motorists getting out of a 12 month ban even when they have been caught driving 2 times the speed limit by pleading "hardship" When are these motorists going to realise that with a driving licence comes a duty of care to other road users.

And it has always been there! 25 years ago I was hit by a hit and run driver. A witness got his number and it turned out when the police caught him he was drunk as well. After the case he ended up with a £50 fine and a suspended driving ban of 6 months. Why - he was a businessman and if unable to drive his business would go under.

If drivers out there knew their car could be impounded for a speeding/careless driving offence the roads would be much safer rather than collecting points and not changing their behaviour.

giff77's picture

posted by giff77 [1175 posts]
21st September 2011 - 13:08


This article and the New Forest item came to my attention after posting an item to my blog skippi-cyclist.blogspot and i have borrowed a few of the comments here to reinforce the story !

Skippy(advocate for "Disabled / Para Sport")@skippydetour. blogging as skippi-cyclist.blogspot & Parrabuddy.blogspot currently on the road with ProTour Grand Tour Events .

skippy's picture

posted by skippy [406 posts]
26th September 2011 - 7:21


Doesn't totting up only cover the last 3 years, while endorsements can last longer? eg CD70 - causing death by careless driving, then failing to provide a specimen for analysis – gets a maximum of 11 points on your license for the next 11 years. But if you did that every 4 years, you'd never hit the 12 points in 3 years limit.

So it seems to me you can legally hit 33 points on your license without *automatic* disqualification. Thats as opposed to the magistrate deciding you're a danger, or invoking the hardship defence.


posted by bazzargh [146 posts]
2nd March 2012 - 12:37