There are more than 9,000 people still driving legally despite having more than 12 penalty points on their licence.
General guidelines are that any driver who accrues 12 or more points should automatically be banned from driving but figures from the DVLA show that thousands are escaping this punishment.
The data, obtained by Auto Express, shows that a total of 9,349 motorists currently still have their licence despite building up 12 points or more, either through totting-up of minor offences or for serious offences such as drink-driving.
In most cases they have pleaded that being banned would cause them “exceptional hardship” such as losing their job. The plea allows courts to use their discretion and not disqualify a driver.
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The DVLA told Auto Express: “In a small percentage of cases where the driver has 12 or more penalty points, a court can exercise its discretion and not disqualify the driver. In the majority of these cases, magistrates or sentencers may have decided to allow drivers to retain their entitlement to drive where it is considered that disqualification would cause exceptional hardship.”
However, the Sentencing Council is now examining how it should be interpreted amid concerns it is being used too frequently by offenders.
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 are not 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 exceptional hardship.
“In response to requests from magistrates and other court users, we have recently consulted on proposed new guidance that will set out clearly the matters to be considered by the courts when deciding exceptional hardship applications. We will consider the responses to that consultation, and will issue guidance that will help make sure these cases are dealt with fairly, consistently and in accordance with the law.”