PACTS has responded to the Sentencing Council’s consultation on changes to the Magistrates’ Court sentencing guidelines.
The consultation proposed changes to the guidance on totting up disqualification and exceptional hardship. The changes are intended to offer clarity to judges on granting exceptional hardship. The proposed guidelines are as follows:
New Exceptional Hardship Guidelines
“When considering whether there are grounds to reduce or avoid a totting up disqualification the court should have regard to the following:
• The test is not inconvenience, or hardship, but exceptional hardship for which the court must have evidence – which may include the offender’s sworn evidence;
• Some hardship is likely to occur in many if not most orders of disqualification;
• Courts should be cautious before accepting assertions of exceptional hardship without evidence that alternatives (including alternative means of transport) for avoiding exceptional hardship are not viable;
• Loss of employment will not in itself necessarily amount to exceptional hardship; whether or not it does will depend on the circumstances of the offender and the consequences of that loss of employment on the offender and/or others. Useful information can be found in the Equal Treatment Bench Book (see in particular Chapter 11);
• The more severe the hardship suffered by the offender and/or others as a result of the disqualification, the more likely it is to be exceptional.”
PACTS broadly agrees with the proposed changes to the guidance on totting up disqualifications and exceptional hardship. However, we suggest additional guidance stating that courts should consider:
- the risk and potential hardship inflicted on the general public when drivers with more than 12 points are not disqualified;
- the risk of the granting of exceptional hardship claims undermining the deterrence effect of the penalty point system;
- the fact that drivers with 12 points will have continued to drive dangerously after receiving points for previous offences despite knowing the potential impact on their lives of reaching 12 points.
You can read the full consultation response here