I have followed this little story (published in The Times) with some interest because it contains features that I regularly encounter when I represent clients facing a 6 month “totting” disqualification.
On 9 October 2019 Lady Tatiana Mountbatten faced the loss of her licence because she had been caught speeding 3 times in 10 days on the same road. I can just visualise the three Notices of Intended Prosecution turning up roughly together and the implications setting in. This is not as uncommon as you might think. Over the years I have represented very many drivers caught in this way. The approach road to the Dartford Crossing suddenly drops to 50 and catches many people out. Temporary speed limits do the same. As it takes a good few working days for police to get the paperwork out, drivers sometimes don’t realise until its too late and face a big penalty points hit. Worse, they face a 6-month ban for a few days of inattention.
It causes panic.
Some years ago, I represented a young driver caught at high speed. She was an Olympic horse-riding talent and Magistrates were lenient in not disqualifying her. I remember they wished her well and everyone in the courtroom was very happy (it does sometimes happen). She was so ambitious and committed that she spent her weekdays sleeping and working in stables to enable her to earn enough to pay for her training.
I have yet to try the same for a driver who might be prevented from being able to travel to equestrian events. This is what Lady Tatiana Mountbatten was going to argue. Like many I have represented, she wanted all charges heard together in one go and that is the correct approach.
Fast forward (no joke intended) to 6 December for the hearing at Lavender Hill Magistrates Court where I attend quite often.
Her case in part was that if banned she would have to use public transport or 'beg, borrow and steal' to get to work but her greatest concern was it could cost her staff their jobs.
It was apparently said that there was going to be significant hardship both to her and to third parties.
Of course, the test is “exceptional hardship”. Significant hardship doesn’t do it. Having to use public transport doesn’t do it either. The court was told that she had not wilfully disregarded the speed limit but had been blissfully unaware of the offending. She did not know that the speed limit had been reduced. Most people don’t speed deliberately. I have had dozens of clients in this position because they have been inattentive, sometimes just for a few moments but long enough for speed to creep up.
Quite often the speed excess is modest. This all makes very little if any difference most of the time.
Courts continue to look at these cases very critically. Magistrates look for financial information to show that a business cannot function without its proprietor being able to drive. This can be quite tricky when the driver has a £50,000 Porsche. I have known courts suggest the vehicle is sold if life whilst disqualified is so hard.
The court decided Lady Tatiana Mountbatten had not proved “exceptional hardship” either for herself or for anyone dependent upon her. Courts decide these issues on the evidence presented.
My last case at Lavender Hill was for a self-employed electrician with a family who depended on him to work, earn and pay the mortgage. Even presenting that one took some careful preparation and effort, and had it failed the consequences for his family, in contrast to the reported case, would have been truly serious.