A freedom of information (FoI) request sent by the BBC has revealed that one British motorist is still legally allowed to drive despite having 62 points on his licence. The West Yorkshire man is one of 10,000 who are still legally driving in Britain despite having accumulated more than 12 points.
Under normal circumstances, 12 points would result in a ban, but magistrates can choose not to enforce this in "exceptional cases".
Most of the West Yorkshire motorist’s points are reported to have been incurred from repeatedly speeding on a motorway.
Duncan Dollimore, Cycling UK’s Senior Road Safety and Legal Campaigns Officer, said: "It is staggering that every year Magistrates appear to find it harder to distinguish what is exceptional from the predictable inconvenience that follows a driving ban.
“Back in 2013, it was around 7,800 drivers each year with 12 or more points who kept their licence. Last year the figure was reported to be up to 8,600, and now we have over 10,000 drivers avoiding bans because the Magistrates put supposed hardship to the convicted driver above safety of others on the road.”
While most of the 10,000 have between 12 and 18 points, the FoI request revealed that there were also three people driving legally with 51, 42 and 39 points on their licences.
Greater London was the area most affected with 1,385 drivers on the road with over 12 points.
Sheena Jowett, deputy chairman of the Magistrates' Association, the independent charity representing magistrates in England and Wales, said: "Magistrates take decisions under clear guidelines, impartially, and on the merits of each individual case.
"Automatic disqualification can be avoided or reduced in cases of 'exceptional hardship'. The process is a robust one and the concept of hardship must be proved to an exceptional level."
Dollimore, however, questioned how ‘exceptional’ was being interpreted.
“Cycling UK was clear in our response to the Government consultation on motoring offences and penalties; more frequent and longer disqualifications, and closing the exceptional hardship loophole, are far more important than discussions about maximum prison sentences.
“If the Government is serious about making our roads safer, they must listen. In the meantime, it would help if Magistrates could buy a dictionary, look up what the word ‘exceptional’ means, and apply that when drivers beg to keep their licences."
Nick Freeman, the lawyer who calls himself Mr Loophole, said the idea behind the hardship mitigation was to give people who committed trivial offences another chance. “If Parliament doesn't want that situation to continue, the legislation needs changing," he said.