Should Losing Your Job Exempt You From A Driving Ban?

The Sentencing Council of England and Wales has proposed tougher measures that will prevent drivers from dodging a driving ban because of ‘exceptional hardship’…

No More Excuses 

The Sentencing Council of England and Wales, a public body made up of legal expert and judges, is proposing stricter guidelines for courts when issuing a driving ban. In particular, it’s arguing that simply losing one’s job should’t be enough to argue for ‘exceptional hardship’. It’s stated that,  “loss of employment will not in itself necessarily amount to exceptional hardship”. It also stressed, “some hardship is likely to occur in many, if not most, orders of disqualification”.

Currently, drivers who face the prospect of a driving ban can potentially avoid one by making a case for ‘exceptional hardship’. This can cover a variety of mitigating circumstances; but the most frequently used is the notion that a ban would cause a person to lose their employment. They often rely on lawyers specialising in motoring offences. The result is that many people, with twelve penalty points or more on their licenses, are still legally driving.

According to the Sentencing Council courts should be “cautious before accepting assertions of exceptional hardship without evidence that alternatives (including alternative means of transport) for avoiding exceptional hardship are not viable”. Also included in the Council’s proposal is the clarification of guidelines that any existing disqualification period be added to any newly imposed one.

Is It Justified? 

To some, the Sentencing Council’s proposals may seem a tad draconian. However, consider that there were around 11,000 drivers with twelve penalty points or more on their licenses in 2018. More importantly, consider the sort of offences these drivers must repeatedly be making in order to acquire them. These are drivers who continually flaunt the Highway Code and, in many cases, expose themselves and other drivers to danger.

Whilst times are no doubt hard for many of us, drivers are responsible for their actions on the road and need to claim responsibility for them. The Council isn’t calling for unavoidable driving bans, it’s calling for more emphasis on evidence. This will hopefully, if accepted, prevent Lamborghini-driving executives from claiming that losing their license constitutes hardship.

For Lord Justice Holroyde, chairman of the Sentencing Council, the recommendations are designed with clarity in mind. He said, “sentencing guidelines are used in magistrates’ courts throughout England and Wales on a daily basis; and it is important that they provide clear guidance to court users”. He continued, “we are keen to hear views on the proposals from magistrates, others working in the criminal justice system and anyone else with an interest in sentencing”.

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