How exceptional is exceptional hardship?

Recent cases in the press have revealed one English licence holder has 62 points but is still driving legally. Since 12 points usually means an automatic 6 month (totting up) driving disqualification, how can this be? The answer is exceptional hardship arguments. Magistrates hear these arguments frequently. They are not easily impressed: hardship is a normal consequence of a disqualification and part of the incentive not to offend. In my experience, the key to success in these submissions is consideration of alternative means of transport and the impact on third parties of any ban.

Those who claim exceptional hardship need to be sure that there are no regular local transport links and no-one to help them with driving. The impact on third parties is also key: taxi drivers who lose their licence might lose their income, but this is unlikely to be sufficient. The loss of a licence which will mean an individual is unable to work which will in turn mean the loss of a home as mortgage payments cannot be met, or the failure of a business because it cannot operate are the type of things which are required to support a successful exceptional hardship argument. The impact of a ban on third parties and the inability to provide alternatives are key.

Claimants should be prepared to answer if there is mortgage insurance or savings (so payments can be made in the event of a loss of employment); whether a business can afford to pay for a driver for 6 months, or whether work colleagues could provide lifts; whether taxis could be paid; work could be done from home; or whether partners could assist and if so how (or why not). Care of third parties, whether for children or elderly relatives is a further reason why a ban would create exceptional rather than normal hardship.

It follows that hardship arguments tend to be more successful for those with families in rural areas with particular skill sets. (It should be remembered that any hardship argument should not be considered by the court if it has been relied upon in the three years before the application in question.)

Whatever claimants do they should be prepared to provide evidence in support of their assertions wherever possible. In this way, many litigants in person will be able to make such submissions and make them without the need for a lawyer. Indeed, many claimants might do well to consider that they can more credibly plead poverty when they do not have an expensive lawyer doing so on their behalf, however well the lawyers might make the submissions. (One way to deal with this conundrum is to arrange a conference or meeting with a lawyer to assist with preparation of the hearing but then make the claim itself in person).