Totting, Disqualification and hardship

In this age of the speed camera, more and more drivers are finding that they are subject to likely disqualification under the totting up provisions in the Road Traffic Act 1988. Everytime a motorist commits an endorseable offence not only is he likely to be fined and ordered to pay costs but he will also find his driving licence endorsed. In relation to matters of excess speed for example an endorsement may be between 3 and 6 penalty points. In relation to matters such as driving without due care and attention that endorsement may be between 3 and 9 penalty points. Typically those who are caught by a speed camera and receive an offer of fixed penalty will receive only 3 penalty points upon their driving licence together with the fixed penalty of £60.00.

The ease of collecting endorsements, many drivers that would have considered themselves safe and responsible in danger of disqualification.

The Road Traffic Act 1988 provides that if twelve or more penalty points are accumulated within a period of three years then the Court must impose a disqualification of not less than 6 months. The minimum period of disqualification of 6 months is increased to 1 year or even 2 years in certain circumstances. For many motorists the threat of compulsory disqualification from driving for at least 6 months is both terrifying and a potential disaster. Sometimes however there may be a way out….

The Road Traffic Act 1988 allows that if a Court finds there is ‘exceptional hardship’ that would be caused to the driver, then the Court may exercise its discretion either not to disqualify at all or to disqualify for a period less than 6 months. This is known as the exceptional hardship provision and is a means by which a driver facing potential disaster may yet avoid disqualification.

However for the Court to find exceptional hardship it must not only hear evidence on Oath from the driver but it must be persuaded that the hardship caused to the driver will indeed be exceptional and not be an inconvenience. The loss of ones employment is not automatically exceptional hardship and many drivers who depend upon their drivers licence for a living whether as couriers, delivery drivers or otherwise come away disappointed and shocked to find that the loss of their job and therefore their livelihood was not considered by the Court sufficient to be “exceptional”. Having said that however it is also right to point out that in most cases loss of ones job and therefore ones livelihood will be at the heart of any claim of exceptional hardship but that the loss of ones job in itself is not automatically enough to satisfy the exceptional hardship provisions, more may be needed.

Even if the Court is persuaded that exceptional hardship would be caused by disqualification it does not automatically have to exercise its power to suspend disqualification, it has a discretion whether to do so or not and may decide, in its wisdom, that in all its circumstances of the case it does not wish to suspend disqualification and allows the law to take its ordinary course. Not only must exceptional hardship be proved but the Court must be persuaded that it is right and proper to exercise this discretion so as not to disqualify.

The Road Traffic Act 1988 indicates when exercising this discretion the Court may decide either not to impose disqualification at all or to impose disqualification for a shorter period of time than the minimum period of 6 months. Any defendant appearing before the Court would therefore be well advised to prepare for his attendance in the fullest manner possible for when he is before the Court it is unlikely the Court will allow any adjournment and will proceed there and then to deal with the defendant.