The Sentencing Council is considering new guidelines in respect of disqualifications from driving. Current guidance is likely to be amended with regards people caught driving whilst disqualified. More significant changes are proposed in respect of the 'totting up' provisions.
“Totting up” provisions come into play when someone accumulates 12 or more points on their driving licence. If you hit the 12 point limit, then you will be disqualified from driving. For how long? That will depend on whether you have been disqualified before. And it is possible to avoid a ban if you are able to show that not being able to drive would lead to 'exceptional hardship'.
The new guidance will address the issue of “exceptional hardship” and sets out the considerations for the court to decide whether or not there are grounds to avoid a ban. It is worth understanding the guidance in this area! Note:
- the test is not inconvenience, or hardship, but exceptional hardship;
- the court must have evidence of the exceptional hardship, which may come from the offender's sworn evidence;
- courts should not easily accept claims of exceptional hardship without evidence that alternatives for avoiding exceptional hardship are not viable, this would include alternative means of transport;
- loss of employment does not, on its own, necessarily amount to exceptional hardship. It will depend on all the circumstances of the case;
- the more severe the hardship, the more likely it is to be exceptional.
In addition, for the guidance relating to driving while disqualified, it is proposed to make it clear that an existing ban should be added to any new disqualification period. Currently, if you receive a six-month disqualification and a week later gets another six-month ban, the two would run along side one another, so you would be banned for 6 months and one week. Under the new proposal, the ban would effectively be for 51 weeks.
There will not be any changes until the consultation stage is completed, which due to close on 15th April 2020. However, sooner rather than later, we can expect that courts will be taking a harsher approach to these issues in the future.
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