Reading the papers recently you’d be hard pressed to avoid a story about motorists that have remained on the road despite accumulating a huge amount of penalty points on their driving licence.
Firstly there was the case of Alex McFarlane from Essex, who was caught speeding six times in three months and was handed 42 points on his licence but remarkably managed to escape a driving ban.
Then there was the story of, what the press liked to refer to as the ‘white van man,’ who was repeatedly caught speeding but was still allowed to keep his licence – even though he has 27 points on his licence.
So how is it possible to continue to drive with so many penalty points on your licence when an accumulation of 12 usually brings with it a driving disqualification?
But as Neil Davies explains, many of these stories fail to report are the individual circumstances involved and as is often the way, no one case is the same as another.
“When a motorist accumulates 12 penalty points on their driving licence within a period of 3 years, the court is required to disqualify them for a minimum period of 6 months; this being commonly referred to as ‘totting up.’
“A motorist in these circumstances can, however, keep their licence if the court considers that to impose a disqualification would cause that person or others ‘exceptional hardship.’
“This exceptional hardship argument is in effect a ‘get out of jail free card,’ which may only be used once every 3 years (save in limited circumstances). A motorist may use this argument irrespective of whether he reaches 12 points (e.g. 4 sets of 3 penalty points) or owing to being sentenced for a number of offences at the same time he reaches 42 points all at once.
“This situation can arise where a motorist commits a number of offences all at the same time, for instance he passes through the same speed camera breaking the speed limit on a number of occasions and is then convicted and sentenced for all offences together on one date before the court.
“When reported these cases sometimes give the impression that they allow motorists to keep on driving despite committing repeat offences, however this is a false impression as the courts do take motoring offences seriously and regularly disqualify motorists from driving for repeat offending.”