Speeding Offences and Penalty Points
We are all aware of the prosecution against the former MP Chris Huhne and his ex-wife Vicky Pryce, who took his penalty points for speeding. The consequent court case, the custodial sentences they received and the issue, which followed, of who should pay the costs of bringing the prosecution were the topic of headlines for months. However, why did this situation arise in the first place?
Taking legal advice at an early stage to diminish reputational damage and the impact on your licence is vital with any road traffic offence. First, your speeding offences solicitor will consider whether you have a defence. For example, if a Notice of Intended Prosecution is required, have the police issued it within the required timescale? If your prosecution is for speeding, was the speed signage correct? Traffic signs must be the colour, type and size authorised by the Secretary of State, but it is surprising how many signs do not comply.
Don’t let penalty points ruin your life
In many situations however, there is no defence and so your lawyer will look to reach the best possible result for you. There might be particular ‘special reasons’ that mean you could avoid points on your licence.
Avoiding a driving ban if you have accumulated 12 or more points on your license
When a driver accumulates 12 or more points on their licence over a three-year period, a magistrates’ court must consider disqualifying the driver for a minimum period of six months. However, a specialist motoring offences lawyer can put forward arguments to try to persuade the court not to disqualify or ban you from driving, or to impose a disqualification or driving ban for a shorter period. This could be the case if you care for an elderly relative, or have children to transport, and loss of your licence could affect them. If you or others would suffer exceptional hardship because of a disqualification, we can ask the court to take this in to account when determining your sentence. Demonstrating a case of exceptional hardship is your responsibility therefore it is essential to get early advice to prepare a sound argument.
What is defined as ‘exceptional hardship’?
If the defendant can persuade the courts that a driving ban would lead to “exceptional hardship”, they could possibly avoid losing their licence. The submission of this argument to the courts (to avoid a ban or to be disqualified for fewer than six months) is also known as “mitigating circumstances”. The basis of this argument is:
- The defendant must convince the court that there are mitigating circumstances to justify not disqualifying the driver;
- The obligation is on the defendant to show that a driving disqualification should not be imposed;
- The hardship experienced is not limited to the driver but could also include an innocent third party who depends on the driver.
Convincing the courts can be a complex matter as there is no specific legal definition of “exceptional hardship”.
In retrospect, undoubtedly Mr Huhne wishes he had consulted a solicitor and made a better choice, which would have avoided arrest, custodial sentence and significant legal costs.
Contact our experienced road traffic and speeding solicitors
If you are facing a road traffic prosecution, the most important thing you can do is to get early legal advice. But what you must not do is ask someone else to take your points for you, nor attempt to ignore correspondence and hope it all goes away, or try to throw together your own defence from a combination of urban myth and Google, as that is likely to make matters far worse.