DVLA and License Revocation

Acting through the DVLA, the Secretary of State for Transport has the power to grant, refuse to grant or revoke a driving licence based on the physical fitness of the driver.

Medical standards apply to both Group 1 and Group 2 licence holders.  Group 1 licence holders include those who drive motor cars and motor cycles.  Group 2 licence holders may drive large lorries (Category C) and Buses (Category D). The medical standards for Group 2 drivers are much higher than those of Group 1 due to the size and weight of the vehicle, as well as the amount of time spent on the road behind the wheel. Carrying passengers brings with it greater regulation.

In practice all decisions on this are taken by DVLA and drivers affected by such decisions have to deal with the DVLA. Its decisions often have significant impact for drivers.

This is an overview of the law and, importantly, what you can do if you don’t like a decision that affects you.

All drivers will know that an application for the grant of a licence “must include a declaration by the applicant stating whether he is suffering or has at any time suffered from any relevant disability or prospective disability”. Licence holders must be fit to drive to ensure they are not a danger to the public.

One thing is clear: DVLA cannot revoke a licence simply on the ground of age. Such a step would be unlawful and open to challenge.

The duty on DVLA to do refuse or to revoke is set out in section 92 of the Road Traffic Act 1988. It does so using concepts of “disability”, “relevant disability”, and “prospective disability” and these are all defined.

The legislation gives power to refuse to grant a licence or to revoke it in relation to all vehicles or just a class of vehicle which the licence covers. There are two ways that the DVLA receive information about fitness to drive; from the licence applicant direct when making an application, and from other sources, such as the police, the courts, doctors and friends or family. It can also come from an insurer, because the Act imposes an obligation on insurers to notify DVLA  if insurance is refused on medical grounds.

Section 94 of the Road Traffic Act imposes an obligation on licence holders to notify the DVLA should they become aware they are suffering from a “relevant or prospective disability”, or if an existing one becomes more acute. A failure to do so without reasonable excuse is an offence.

In summary, if DVLA is satisfied from such information that the person concerned is “suffering from a relevant disability” it can refuse to issue or revoke a licence.

The issue for most people is the manner and fairness in which it is done and the steps available to challenge the decision. DVLA does not always go out of its way to help and the provision of standard forms and letters can be confusing and irritating.

It helps to get to grips with the terminology, that is to say “disability”, “relevant disability” and “prospective disability”. Appreciating what they mean is important.

A “disability” is widely defined and includes disease. It includes persistent misuse of drugs or alcohol whether or not there is a dependency. The existence of such a “disability” can lead to DVLA concluding that there is likely to be a danger to the public if the applicant drives any vehicle, or a vehicle of a particular class. Drivers who are disqualified from driving by the courts for repeat drink drive or high levels of alcohol find this is an obstacle to quickly obtaining a new licence once the disqualification is over.

The legislation then draws a distinction between a “relevant disability” and a “prospective disability”. The consequences of both are the same.

A relevant disability is defined as any “prescribed disability” and any other disability likely to make the driver a “source of danger to the public”. The words “source of danger to the public” are important. There needs to be a clear link between the disability and the likelihood of danger to the public.  

A “prospective disability” is a concept that allows DVLA to take a longer term view of something that is not a disability now but which might become one because of the nature of the condition. It allows account to be taken of conditions that are progressive or intermittent.

The disabilities that are prescribed are set out in the Motor Vehicles Driving Licences Regulations 1999. They include epilepsy, severe mental disorders and liability to sudden attacks of disabling giddiness or fainting, together with persistent misuse of drugs or alcohol whether or not there is any dependency.  The legislation provides that if the driver is suffering from a “prescribed disability” DVLA must refuse or revoke a licence, subject to certain safeguards and limitations.

However, if the driver is suffering from a disability other than a prescribed one, DVLA must refuse or revoke only if the driver is “likely to be a source of danger to the public”. Disability as such is not defined but does include a disease. In practice it means that there must be a medical or other identifiable physical or mental condition that is likely to cause the person’s driving to be a danger.

In summary therefore the DVLA can only take action to refuse or revoke if the person making the decision is satisfied on a balance of probabilities that the driver is suffering from or has a relevant disability. Such a decision has to be supported by evidence. It cannot for example be inferred from circumstances, for example an accident.

Frequently asked questions:

Will a medical revocation apply to me?

If you hold a Group 1 or Group 2 licence, this will apply if you suffer from a prescribed disability or any other disability that makes you a source of danger to the public.

If DVLA is informed of this in any of the ways described above you are likely to be the subject of an enquiry. Dealing with it requires a clear understanding of what DVLA can and cannot do, and what evidence is required.

What happens when DVLA is informed about me?

It will conduct its own investigation using medical information from your doctor or other sources. It must determine whether you are suffering from a prescribed disability or from any other disability that makes you a danger to the public.

You will be able to participate in the process, and it’s important you do so. You may want to start obtaining good quality medical evidence.

If the investigation establishes one of these, DVLA will revoke your licence on medical grounds. If your Group 1 or Group 2 licence is revoked on medical grounds you will no longer be in a position to drive.

Will I be able to drive my vehicle during the investigation?

It depends.

Group 1 or Group 2 licence holders are able to continue driving unless there has been a previous revocation, in which case the entitlement does not apply.

What can I do if I receive a medical revocation of my licence and I want to challenge the DVLA’s decision?

Once DVLA has made its decision, you will be informed of the decision made by an individual decision maker who must set out exactly what the reasons are. These must fall within the statutory provisions I have referred to above.

You will be provided with an opportunity to provide additional information from either your doctor or a specialist and this is a step you should take. You do at this stage have a right to appeal against the revocation to the Magistrates Court, but unless you are running out of time, it is usually worth making every effort to produce good quality evidence and representations in writing beforehand.

Written representations are important and I can help with these.

Such material will provide the basis of an appeal to the court should it be necessary.

Appeal to Magistrates Court:

If DVLA stands by its initial decision the only option is an appeal to a Magistrates Court.

The court’s function is to whether DVLA made the correct decision or not. It is effectively a rehearing of all the evidence and issues, together with anything new that is obtained to present to the court.

It is for DVLA to satisfy the court that its decision was correct. It must do so on the evidence before it, which is why time spent on good quality medical evidence is so important.

The appeal will look closely at exactly what was before the person who made the decision and whether there was a proper link between any disability and danger to the public.

A sound knowledge of the law and legal principles, and an ability to present them properly to the court are also essential. That is what I bring. 

If DVLA has started to look at revocation on medical grounds and you want help with the process and to challenge it, then get in touch with me straightaway. 

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