More than 9,000 motorists within the UK have persisted in their driving licenses despite having accrued 12 or more penalty points – the variety that typically brings an automatic ban.

The figure – obtained from the driving force and Vehicle Licensing Agency (DVLA) by Auto Express– reveals how often courts are willing to grant an exemption to the 12-point rule, most frequently because drivers and their lawyers argue the loss of a license would cause “exceptional hardship”.

Under general guidelines, drivers who accrue 12 or more points – either by serious offenses like drink driving or after ‘totting up’ following a series of other offenses – receive an automatic ban for between six months and two years, counting on the number of previous disqualifications. But the info shows there are currently 9,349 motorists in possession of both a legitimate license and 12 or more penalty points.

The DVLA told us: “In a little percentage of cases where the driving force has 12 or more penalty points, a court can exercise its discretion and not disqualify the driving force. In the majority of those cases, magistrates or sentencers may have decided to permit drivers to retain their entitlement to drive where it’s considered that disqualification would cause exceptional hardship.”

With around 1,000,000 penalty points issued annually, and over 41 million full license holders within the UK, the amount holding onto their licenses with 12 or more points may be a small proportion of motorists. But a consultation by the united kingdom Sentencing Council – which sets guidelines for judges – opened at the beginning of the year and recommended that while the loss of employment after a driving ban may cause hardship, judges shouldn’t automatically assume that this hardship would be “exceptional”.

So unemployment alone isn’t enough justification to stay a driver’s license following the acquisition of 12 points.
Jack Cousens, head of roads policy at the AA, said: “Eyebrows are going to be raised that nearly  9,500 drivers who have totted up 12 or more points are still out on the road. Credit should be given to Auto Express for keeping this issue within the spotlight because the public wants to be assured that drivers who continuously break the law are going to be punished properly.

“There are concerns from the Sentencing Council that the ‘exceptional hardship application’ employed by drivers to stay their license is employed too frequently. It’ll be interesting to see what conclusions they are available to.”
Lord Justice Holroyde, chairman of the Sentencing Council, said:

“The Council is aware of public concern that offenders who have incurred 12 penalty points or more aren’t always disqualified from driving. There are legitimate reasons why this might happen; the law allows for such a disqualification to be avoided or reduced for reasons of outstanding hardship.

“In response to requests from magistrates and other court users, we’ve recently consulted on proposed new guidance which will begin clearing the matters to be considered by the courts when deciding exceptional hardship applications. we’ll consider the responses thereto consultation, and can issue guidance which will help confirm these
cases are addressed fairly, consistently, and following the law.”