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Flaws in the Exceptional Hardship Process

As set out in Section 35 of the Road Traffic Offenders Act 1988, drivers exceeding 12 penalty points within 3 years are faced with a minimum period of disqualification, often known as a ‘totting up’ ban. There are statutory minimum disqualification periods starting at 6 months and extending to 2 years, depending on how many previous disqualifications are on record within 3 years of the date the latest offence occurred.

However, in some circumstances, it’s possible to avoid any ban by successfully presenting an exceptional hardship argument, which offers you a potential opportunity to avoid sanction.

What is exceptional hardship?

This provision recognises that in certain circumstances, the repercussions of a disqualification extend beyond the individual to encompass any obligations to their dependents or the wider community.

By demonstrating extreme difficulties or suffering beyond what is considered appropriate, individuals can present compelling arguments to avoid a driving disqualification, thereby safeguarding their livelihoods and preserving their ability to fulfil essential responsibilities.

The burden of proof sits with you as the defendant to show that exceptional hardship would be caused by a driving ban. The court will then consider all the circumstances of the case, including the nature of the offence, your circumstances, and the impact that a driving ban would have on you and others.

Connectivity undermining the process

In today’s society, our legal processes must keep pace with technological advancements to ensure efficient and fair outcomes. However, the current shortcomings in the processes related to exceptional hardship raise concerns about the impact on individuals and the overall effectiveness of the legal system in this area.

Among the most pressing issues is the lack of networked computer systems, meaning there’s a disconnect between the systems used by regional police forces and those at the DVLA, leading to significant delays in people receiving court summons.

This delay not only causes unnecessary anxiety and uncertainty but also undermines the timely administration of justice. Without a streamlined and efficient system for issuing court summons, you may face prolonged periods of disruption to your life.

Furthermore, the alternative option of offering fixed penalty notices in lieu of court summons has proven to be problematic in cases where it is not applicable. Delays in systems alignment can result in you receiving a fixed penalty notice when already on 9 points, which you are ineligible for before the DVLA systems assimilate the new data and subsequently issue an automatic summons. This scenario can lead to unjust outcomes and exacerbate the challenges you face whilst you seek a fair resolution.

The legal system must accurately assess each situation to ensure appropriate measures are taken, and the current lack of precision is a source of concern. Implementing networked computer systems for issuing court summons would significantly reduce delays and provide individuals with a clearer understanding of their legal exposure and obligations. Additionally, a more nuanced approach to offering fixed penalty notices, considering the specific circumstances of each case, is essential to prevent unjust outcomes.

The challenges of timing

The timing of the issuing of fixed penalty notices and court summons can also present significant challenges, potentially impeding your ability to ask the court to hear multiple penalties within the same hearing. This situation, in turn, may necessitate a prolonged waiting period of up to 3 years before you can present another exceptional hardship argument, should you again fall within the scope of a totting-up ban.

Such delays can have far-reaching implications, causing you undue strain and uncertainty when attempting to navigate the legal process. The inability to consolidate multiple penalties into a single hearing not only prolongs the resolution of legal matters but also places additional burdens upon you, hindering your ability to effectively present your case and seek a fair and timely outcome.

These challenges underscore the need for a more streamlined and responsive approach, one that minimises delays and empowers individuals to address multiple penalties effectively within a reasonable timeframe.

Engage professional support

It's worth noting that exceptional hardship is not a loophole or a means to avoid the consequences of dangerous driving and should be taken seriously. Its relevance is limited to situations where a driving ban would result in exceptional hardship for the individual or their dependents.

It’s an intricate and multifaceted area of law demanding meticulous examination of the circumstances in each case, and while it’s feasible to present an exceptional hardship argument without legal representation, engaging a solicitor specialised in motoring offences is strongly recommended to build a compelling case and help navigate the challenges presented by the timing issues highlighted to improve the likelihood of you securing a positive outcome.

Noble Solicitors possess extensive expertise in assisting clients with the preparation and presentation of exceptional hardship cases. With a deep understanding of the legal system, we offer comprehensive support and guidance to individuals facing potential driving bans due to the totting up of penalty points. Our team of skilled solicitors works closely with clients to gather compelling evidence and construct persuasive arguments that highlight the exceptional circumstances and hardships that would arise from a driving disqualification. We are dedicated to leveraging our knowledge and experience to help clients navigate this complex process and achieve the best possible outcomes.

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