Cycling UK calls for legislation to close ‘exceptional hardship loophole’ to keep all road users safe

Cycling charity Cycling UK has renewed its call on the Government to close the loophole in the law which allows people to escape driving bans.

Currently, people driving who have accrued 12 penalty points on their licence, which would normally result in a temporary driving ban due to ‘totting up’, can avoid a ban by claiming it would cause them “exceptional hardship”.

Cycling UK has calculated more than 83,000 drivers with 12 points or more have escaped disqualification in the past ten years. In October 2020, the Sentencing Council issued guidance for magistrates which was intended to reduce the number of offenders with totting up offences who avoided disqualification.

As reported in the Sunday Times, since those changes, the Sentencing Council said it has been suggested by some magistrates and legal advisers that courts are too often imposing short discretionary disqualifications (of less than 56 days) where people have received 12 or more points.

Duncan Dollimore, Cycling UK’s head of campaigns, said: “The Sentencing Council’s report shows we now have a loophole within a loophole. The result is people who should be facing six-month or longer driving bans are continuing to pose a risk on our roads, often with fatal results.”

The Sentencing Council cannot enact legislative change, but only issue guidance to magistrates to follow. Cycling UK says that with evidence the guidance is ‘failing’, the Government must enact necessary legislation to keep all road users safe.

Dollimore said: “For the past eight years we have been promised by successive ministers a review of Road Traffic Offences and Sentencing. This review, if it ever begins, could put an end to the fatal flaws, like the exceptional hardship loophole, in our current road safety legislation.

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“Exceptional hardship is not losing the right to drive, exceptional hardship is what families such as Louis McGovern’s and Lee Martin’s have to face when their loved ones do not return home. Exceptional hardship is when the courts put the retention of someone’s licence to drive above the safety of other road users. Exceptional hardship is when the courts allow irresponsible people to carry on driving until they cause further harm or death on the roads.

“The law as it is, does not deliver justice and fails to reduce danger on our roads. For more than eight years the government has recognised our road traffic laws failing – it’s about time they brought in their much-needed change.”

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