Concerned about Brexit? Find out how an immigration lawyer can help you obtain EEA Permanent Residence

Since the EU referendum in 2016 there has been a lot of hysteria, media outrage and panic. EAA nationals have been caught in the crossfire of politicians and voters with their livelihoods used as bargaining chips. Due to the uncertainty and instability it is sensible advice for any EEA national and their family members to secure a document certifying their permanent residence. By obtaining Permanent Residence, an EEA national will guarantee their long-term rights in the UK and only be one step away from British Citizenship. In previous years, EEA nationals could apply direct for British citizenship after 6 years of exercising treaty rights, but rule changes in recent years have required proof of EEA PR first.

Do I need legal advice?

Like many tasks in life, people can do these themselves. Many people file their own taxes, fix their plumbing problems or repair their car. For many others, they understand that seeking help from an accountant, a plumber or a mechanic is the right thing to do. This avoids costly mistakes down the line. It may appear that by doing these tasks an individual can save themselves money, but it’s when it all goes wrong the problem quickly escalates. Would you want to install faulty brakes on your car and find you can’t stop on the motorway? The same reason applies to seeking legal advice. You will receive help from a professional who is experienced and knowledgeable. With immigration, the stakes are higher. Mistakes can mean losing jobs, families being separated and having to leave the UK.

What if I’ve already been refused an EEA application?

Previous refusals don’t mean you don’t qualify. It only means that you need to address any short fall in documents, procedures or wait until you meet the specific criteria. Immigration lawyers can always explain a refusal and help you work through any problems with your application. A prior refusal does not mean that you will have a black mark or problem with further applications.

What help can I receive if I’m an EEA citizen in the UK?

If you are considering making your status in the UK permanent, the best option is to apply for EEA Permanent Residence. This is typically achieved through exercising treaty rights in the UK for 5 years, with the most common form being through work. Immigration advice would ensure that you are eligible to apply, you understand all the procedures and steps involved and what documents are suitable to prove you meet the requirements. Often, the minor details and specifics are what cause applicants’ problems. By having your documents assessed and your forms completed by a competent UK Immigration Advisor you will have peace of mind knowing that your application will be filed correctly.

How long does the process take?

Waiting times vary for EEA PR applications to be approved by the home office. Currently estimates are 3-6 months. Due to the lengthy time it takes to process and the uncertainly that lies ahead, it’s best to ensure you obtain your EEA PR certificate the first time around. EEA nationals can’t avail of the premium service centre same day route for these types of applications, leaving the only option to mail the application. If you want to ensure smooth sailing with your immigration matters, it’s best to seek expert legal advice.

Why you should hire a motoring lawyer if you have been caught speeding

Speeding is the most common driving offence in England and Wales, with more than 159,000 drivers being caught driving over the speed limit in 2015. The penalties range from a £100 fine and three points on the driver’s licence to a £2,500 fine and a lengthy ban. There’s also the option to attend a speed awareness course – at the driver’s own expense.

The UK’s speed limits

In built-up areas the speed limit is 30mph but more and more urban areas impose a 20mph speed limit. On single carriageways the limit is 60mph and on dual carriageways and motorways it’s 70mph unless there’s a clear sign saying otherwise.

There’s the right to challenge the allegation, of course, but this usually means hiring a strong legal team like to navigate the subtleties of UK law.

Why you should use a lawyer

It is never advisable to attend Court unrepresented. Human nature dictates that corners are often cut when it comes to evidence and procedure and without an expert in this often complicated area of law, you will lose the chance to use it to your advantage. There is a much greater risk of the Court misapplying the law when it comes to unrepresented defendants, so that you are wrongfully convicted or receive a harsher sentence than you would have done if you had a solicitor. You need expert knowledge and experience and that comes from a genuine specialist.

Those three points may seem relatively harmless at first glance but if you reach 12 you will be facing the possibility of a 6 month ban which could have a catastrophic effect on your livelihood and family. If you need a clean driving licence for your job you’ll be very worried, and if you face losing your licence, it could mean unemployment. Bringing a legal team on board to argue in court for you will almost certainly help you.

If you believe you’re being wrongly accused

If you plan to contest your speeding charge you can’t do it by yourself as you simply won’t have the training or knowledge. It can be a scary process, taking on the prosecution, which is why you shouldn’t do it alone. With lawyers, you’ll have someone confident, knowledgeable and experienced in your corner.

If you were speeding

If you’re planning to plead guilty and there’s enough evidence against you to secure a conviction, you still have options that can reduce the penalties or the ban. Lessening the severity of the punishment can help you to retain your job and keep your family financially supported.

You could have your case dismissed altogether

If your legal team can spot a flaw in the prosecution case then they can get your case dismissed. The police may not have followed procedures properly, or the speed camera could have been wrong (it has been known). If it’s your job and your family security on the line, why wouldn’t you give it a shot?

Breach of conditions of bail in the UK

Persons accused of different types of offences in the UK and kept in custody have the right to apply for bail. The term bail denotes the case where the offender can be released from custody for a particular amount of money and if the circumstances are suitable for granting the bail. But there are cases where breaches of conditions of bail might intervene. Our criminal defence solicitors in London can make a full analysis of your case and can represent you in the court of law when applying for bail.

Breaches in cases of pre-charge bail

If there are suspicions that the pre-charge bail in the UK has been breached, the police can keep the individual accused of criminal offences in custody. This time, the authorities need to establish the grounds and to determine if the suspect needs to be charged. It is good to know that unauthorized charges will not be taken into consideration and the suspect can be released with or without bail. The Bail Act 1976 also stipulates that the defendant will be subject to the terms applied right before the arrest for breach. One should know that if he is involved in such matters, where the conditions of bail have been breached, he should solicit help and guidance from an UK criminal lawyer.

Breaches in cases of post-charge bail

Post-charge bail means the police will not enforce certain conditions on an offender, like electronic monitoring or asking to be available for weekly reports. The method for trading with breach of police imposed bail conditions, that are in the position preceding the first hearing, corresponds with the technique for dealing with breaches of enforced court conditions.

What you need to know about the breach of conditions of bail

The police officers in the UK have full rights to arrest a person who is considered guilty of breaching the bail terms and conditions. The magistrates’ court can remand the defendant in custody if he/she broke the bail conditions and if in this situation the accused is considered to be a potential danger to the society. The police officer who made the arrest needs to make proof and to state the grounds he believes the offender broke the bail rules.

You can contact a criminal defence solicitor in London if you need assistance and legal advice related to bail in the UK.

No Win No Fee solicitors services in Ireland

If you or a member of your family has been injured in an accident or suffered from any form of injury or illness due to an act of negligence or a lack of duty of care, we could help you to claim the compensation that you deserve.

Our guarantee is that if there is no win, then there is no fee, so in the unlikely event that we do not succeed with a personal injury claim, there will be no cost to you.

We provide personal injury and medical negligence advice in Ireland. We will deal with your personal injury claim in an efficient, effective and sympathetic way so you receive the best compensation settlement possible. We are extremely proud of all the wonderful feedback we have received from our clients in the past. We will do what it takes so the feedback continues into the future.

A No Win, No Fee agreement is an arrangement between you and us who are your personal injury Solicitors which means that if unfortunately, your compensation claim with us is not successful, we, your no win no fee  Solicitor at will not be paid for the work we have done. If you win your claim, we, your Solicitor is paid our fees by the other party, typically an insurance company.

The No Win No Fee agreement covers both our fees and costs and applies to Road traffic accidents, which cover accidents with cars, Lorries, motorbikes, bikes and pedestrians; it also covers slips and falls and of course, works accidents and injuries. Where there is a lack of duty of care in a medical established then we also offer No Win No Fee agreements.

A no win no fee claim is a conditional agreement between you and us your Personal injury solicitor. We fully agree that if your case is unsuccessful, you will not have to pay the fees or costs to us. If your case is successful, on the other hand, your personal injury solicitor’s fees and costs are paid out by your adversary. That means, win or lose, it will not cost you anything upfront to make a personal injury claim.

No win no fee claims mean an opportunity to seek accident compensation without worrying about the serious financial risk involved. Many people who suffer personal injuries in Ireland turn to no win no fee claims for two key reasons;

  • No financial risk for you in going down the No Win No Fee route
  • It focuses our mind on winning your Personal injury claim for compensation as if we lose we are out of pocket!

You should know that in Ireland we, your personal injury solicitors and indeed all solicitors in Ireland are not allowed to charge clients a percentage fee for winning a case. Only work performed can be charged.

The insurance industry is very critical of No Win No Fee agreements as they claim that it fuels the Personal injury industry, but we believe that No Win No Fee makes justice available for all.

Personal injury solicitors design new site for Ireland

PISD help people to contact the best legal representation for those who have been injured in an accident or by a medical intervention either physically or mentally due to the negligence of an individual, company or another party. In short, it is their job to prove that the negligence of a third party or parties caused your injury. They work mainly on a No Win No fee basis which makes personal injury claims easy to access for all. No Win No Fee solicitors are the way to go.

Their experienced personal injury solicitors at have specialist expertise in all areas of personal injury and medical negligence law. If you have been injured or suffered medically because of someone else’s negligence, they will guide you through the process of making a personal injury or medical negligence claim for compensation against the individual or organisation responsible for your injury.

Following any such injury from an accident or medical intervention, it is important to contact a personal injury solicitor as quickly as possible. Although by law, those injured in such incidents are allowed up to two years (unless you are a minor) within which personal injury claims must be commenced, they would always recommend commencing your claim as soon as possible so that all the necessary information can be documented as accurately as possible while your recollection and that of any witnesses of the accident remains fresh.

Personal injury may be defined by injuries suffered because of an accident that was not your fault and could involve road traffic accidents, slips, and falls and work accidents and injuries. Road traffic accidents may involve, cars, Lorries, buses, motorbikes, bicycles, and pedestrians.

Medical personnel have what is called a “duty of care” to their patients. Doctors, Surgeons, Consultants, dentists, and nurses may define medical personnel etc. When there is negligence and the duty of care is not provided then the patient may take a Medical Negligence claim out for damages due to the harm, loss of income and quality of life etc.

Personal injury solicitors may seem like an expensive option just to make a personal injury claim for compensation for what could be a minor injury, but when you consider the experience and knowledge they bring to the table, opting to hire a solicitor like them is simply a no brainer. On top of that, they are also No Win No Fee solicitors and that makes life easier.

Their Personal injury solicitors love their job not only because of the money they can earn but from the satisfaction they get from helping those that very often are in a situation when they need it, and their team are no exception.

If you need an expert, then contact us today to find out how they make a serious difference in helping you. They have a team of personal injury solicitors with many years of experience in successfully claiming compensation for clients, mainly on a No Win No Fee basis.

Crowdfunded funerals on the rise

yolande's funeral

We’re all familiar with the concept of crowdfunding being used to raise money to finance new products or rare medical procedures, but funerals?

Welcome to 2017. Crowdfunding for funerals is on the rise in England. When Big Issue seller Peter Toulson last year, a friend set up an appeal to raise £3,000 for his funeral. The friend managed to get more than £5,000 from donations through the fundraising site JustGiving.

According to figures from JustGiving, more than 2,000 funeral services were funded by crowdfunding from January to September in 2016. In the same period in 2015, there were less than 500 funerals paid for in this way.

No doubt, the rising costs of funerals plays a part in this increase. In England, funeral costs vary according to which part of the country you’re in, but on average a funeral costs roughly £3,700. This only covers the basics – a funeral director, a simple coffin and ceremony and hearse. If you want flowers, catering and a headstone, this pushes the price up considerably.

There is a Social Fund Funeral Payment that is supposed to help people on low incomes with funeral costs, but the maximum award for other funeral costs is fixed  at £700 as it has been since 2003. Funeral director costs have risen steeply in that time, well above the rate of inflation.

If someone dies without money to pay for a funeral and there are no relatives who can cover the costs, often the only resort is a Public Health Funeral, sometimes called a pauper’s funeral. Research by BBC News shows that such funerals cost councils £1.7 million in 2013–14, relating to some 3,500 funerals.

Finders International set up a Funeral Fund last year to help hard-pressed local authorities and health boards deal with the cost of Public Health Funerals.

Daniel Curran, founder and managing director of Finders International, explains:

“These will be cases where there are genuinely no known next of kin – rather than next of kin who just refuse to pay. We will have done the research to prove this and when we receive an application for a subsidy, we’ll assess each case on its merits and decide whether or not we grant a payment. This might fund the funeral completely or partially. As hundreds of thousands of pounds is spent on Public Health Act funerals every year, we hope to make a small difference by giving funds to deserving cases.”

On average, JustGiving users raised £1,300 for each crowd-funded funeral in 2016. In total there were more than 52,000 donations, compared to 9,069 in January to September 2015.

People can opt for a basic cremation which costs £1,600 and just involves a cremation without a service. The singer David Bowie asked that there be no funeral or memorial service after he died last year. He was cremated shortly after he died with no family or friends present.

Talking to the BBC about crowdfunded funerals, JustGiving’s chief operations officer, Charles Wells said it could be a practical way for family, friends and the community to work together to help take the strain off families.

To find out more about Finders International’s Funeral Fund, please see our website, email us at or call us on Freephone (UK only) 0800 088 8796.

Image Yolande’s funeral, cc by Tom Coady on Flickr.

Whiplash claims reform to benefit insurers most

RTA UK 2 CC license

In early January of this year, the UK’s Ministry of Justice closed a consultation on soft tissue injury claims, or whiplash, reform after a seven-week response period. During that time, interested parties were given an opportunity to analyze the significant impact the proposed changes to the claims process relating to whiplash after road traffic accidents would have. The reforms, coming only a short three years after similar measures benefiting large insurers, purport to address the perception of an excessive compensation culture throughout the UK, focused on fast cash for claims that burden the insurance companies and ultimately, raise premiums for motorists.

Within the proposal for reform, the government offered four substantial changes to how claims are handled currently. The first change hones in on the need to reduce fraudulent claims made by dishonest motorists or cash-hungry whiplash victims by altogether taking away compensation paid for pain, suffering, and loss of amenity (PSLA). An alternative to completely dissolving the opportunity for compensation is to cap the total amount paid to no more than £400 per incident. In addition, the reforms propose a denial of any whiplash claim brought against an insurance company that does not come with medical evidence to support it, and an all but forced small claims track for personal injury claims after road traffic accidents.

The combination of these reforms is, according to the proposal, intended to reduce the frivolous soft tissue injury claims and starkly reduce the average amount of a claim, currently at an estimated  £1,850. The reduction to compensation amounts, increased maximum for small claims court, and requirement of medical evidence of whiplash is all meant to deter individuals from making claims that may not be substantiated. Although the reform for soft tissue injury claims processes is spun under the guise of saving safe, honest motorists some money each month in insurance premiums, the true motivating force behind the potential changes is clearly an industry interested in higher profits.

The case for insurers

No altruistic driver is apparent in the insurance industry, despite the narrative of wanting to create a more honest, claim-wary population. Instead, insurers have created a story of a growing epidemic of fraudulent whiplash claims, pointing to the detriment erroneous lawsuits cause for the vast majority of motorists. In the opening letter of the reform, the government cites that an increase in whiplash claims has taken place over the last ten years, to the tune 50%. In addition, individuals filing soft tissue injury claims tack on costly attorney fees in addition to pain, suffering, and loss of amenity, creating a substantial blow to the insurance companies and the road users who rely on affordable coverage.

The reality of the soft tissue injury claims issue is not nearly as excessive as insurers might hope to promote. Instead, the cost of claims have fallen steadily for the last five years, and the associated cost to the insured population has experienced a 30% decline since 2010. Yet insurance companies have raked in more than £2.5 billion in profits by slowly increasing insurance premiums since 2013. The rise in cost to motorists can’t be directly correlated to an increase in fraudulent soft tissue injury claims, nor the cost of paying for substantiated claims. Motorists are required by law to hold insurance – the insurance companies have taken that mandate straight to the bank, and now are on the path toward limiting the benefits they provide to road users throughout the country.

A missing piece

Insurers claim to be on the right side of the reform, touting a reduction in premium costs to the insured population by putting an end to abusive whiplash claims. The unfortunate truth is that, while some motorists will be afforded cost savings by way of lower monthly premium payments, others will continue to be left out in the cold. A representative from a personal injury firm dealing with motorcycle accidents in the UK states, “The vulnerable 1%, including motorcyclists, pedestrians, and bicyclists, should be protected from the potential impacts of the proposed reforms, but they stand to be adversely affected instead. Motorcyclists represent just 1% of road traffic but account for 19% of all road user deaths. Given that accidents involving vulnerable road users are often more complex and more severe, the proposed reforms have the potential to keep them from receiving just compensation when they need it most.”

The soft tissue injury claims reform is a singularly focused method to reduce the number of fraudulent claims against insurers. Unfortunately, the perceived benefits of the reform put a heavy burden on the individuals who turn to their insurance companies for the financial assistance they are entitled to after a road traffic accident, especially road users who are more vulnerable to injury. Insurers are standing firm in their narrative that abusive claims work to drive up costs for the average motorist, but the data points to a driving force produced by the need to increase profit margins. The potential £40 savings possibly passed down to safe, honest road users hardly offsets the handcuffs placed on their ability to receive compensation from insurers after a road traffic accident occurs.

The Human Tissue Act and the issue of consent


When it comes to DNA testing, the UK is one of the very few countries in the world to have a system which regulates the way in which DNA samples are collected and how they are used. Anywhere else in the world, DNA samples can be collected from anyone without them even knowing or being aware that their sample has been collected. The HTA covers consent and designates a code of practice in several areas, including:

  • Donation of solid organs for transplantation
  • Post-mortem examination
  • Anatomical examination
  • Disposal of human tissue

The concept of DNA theft is unknown. The Human Tissue Act broadly regulates the removal of all human tissue. Any infringement of the HTA and the perpetrator is liable to a hefty fine or even a prison sentence of up to 3 years. The 2004 Act applies to England, Wales and Northern Ireland whilst the 2006 act applies to Scotland (the 2006 is very similar to the 2004 act, it includes additional regulations which came into force in the aforementioned year).

The law arose following the widespread removal of post mortem human tissue, with one of the major scandals in the UK being at the centre of the drive to create and implement the Human Tissue Act– the Alder Hey children’s hospital scandal of 1998. The scandal centred upon the discovery that organs were removed from deceased child and retained by the hospital or sold to pharmaceutical companies for research – without the consent of the parents. The bodies were often returned to the parents without many organs removed. The scandal caused much public outcry and emotional aggravation to the families involved who had to carry out multiple burials as their child’s organs were handed back gradually.

How does the HTA affect somebody carrying out a DNA test in the UK?

htaThe issue of consent is central; anybody who wishes to carry out a DNA test in the UK needs to know that they may be liable to prosecution if they collect a sample from somebody who has not given their consent to the test. Leading UK based DNA testing companies, such as International Biosciences, easyDNA and The Genetic Testing Laboratories highlight the important of the Human Tissue Act on their site. It is not uncommon for people to carry out DNA tests to establish all kinds of relationships – most commonly it is probably paternity that is brought into question and often, a paternity test is carried out with either the father, the mother or the child being unaware that their DNA sample has been collected and that it will be used for any type of paternity test whether peace of mind or a prenatal paternity test.  Individuals will often keep their eyes peeled in the hope that they might be able to find a sample, collect it and send it for testing.

The appropriate term here is “informed consent” – the person to which the tissue sample belongs (let us say a hair, a blood stain or a swab samples) need to be made aware of the following:

  1. That their DNA sample has been collected
  2. What their DNA sample will be used for (in this case, a DNA test)

Of course, the HTA makes provisions – people under the legal age of consent cannot give authorisation to test their samples. In such cases, their legal guardian or parent may give consent on their behalf. In the case of people who are disabled or incapable of giving their consent, the Act also makes provisions. The tissue must only be used if it is deemed in the best interest of the person to use the tissue for research or any type of analysis.

It is also important to note that the failure to give consent or the absence of it does mean that the person has acquiesced for the testing to go ahead. Consent must be clear and explicit; DNA testing companies offering such tests in the UK will normally provide consent forms. These forms need to be signed by every person submitting a sample, thereby giving consent to the laboratory to test their samples. Some companies undoubtedly do not warn or explain the Human Tissue Act even exists but these companies could be making themselves and the people tested legally liable.

New safer maternity care plan aims to reduce medical negligence claims


Within the last month, seven NHS sites throughout England were named early adopters of specific recommendations laid out through the Safer Maternity Care plan. A combination of more personalised care plans for expectant mothers and their newborn children, greater access to care at a single location, and community collaboration to better manage growing caseloads were all prescribed as trial approaches under the plan, on the wings of a recent Better Births report. In the telling report, advocates for quality maternity care highlighted the need for greater transparency and a clearer focus on protecting a high-need patient population.

In addition to the provisions for increased maternity care services throughout NHS trusts, the Safer Maternity Care plan brings attention to one glaring issue plaguing the nation’s healthcare system: the cost and time-consuming process of bringing a claim against a provider when avoidable harm has occurred. A new rapid resolution and redress scheme (RRR) aims to reduce the litigation culture by allowing families who have faced issues during a pregnancy or delivery to go through a more streamlined process to get not only financial support but answers to why an incident took place. Overall, the RRR has the potential to lend a necessary hand by providing greater transparency while also reducing costs for the NHS – but some concerns exist.

The problem in combatting litigation culture

Each year in England, nearly 1,000 newborns die or are diagnosed with severe brain injuries due to avoidable harm experienced during the mother’s pregnancy. Through the current claims process, families who have suffered these insurmountable losses don’t see any sort of resolution for 11.5 years, on average, and the NHS is left with a significant, burdensome bill that tops half a billion pounds each year. The rapid resolution and redress scheme included in the Safer Maternity Care plan may be a step in the right direction toward reducing these losses for all parties involved by fast-tracking complaints to determine if avoidable harm was a factor and if so, what compensation should be paid to the family to offset these burdens.

A solicitor from Patient Claim Line, a medical negligence law firm that deals with cases of poor care during pregnancy or errors made during the birth explains the worry surrounding the RRR compensation scheme as part of the Better Births recommendations. “In the large number of maternity care cases we see, it is rare that financial compensation is the motivating factor behind bringing a claim. Instead, families want to understand who holds the responsibility for avoidable harm, and they want open and honest communication with the healthcare system throughout the process.” A rapid resolution and redress scheme has the potential to push claims through the funnel at a speed that doesn’t allow for a sound solution to what truly burdens the families who have suffered due to lacking maternity or post-natal care. Additionally, with setting the courts out to be a choice of last resort for suffering families, it may be a challenge to determine if the compensation received through the RRR scheme is enough to cover expenses associated with life-altering outcomes of poor maternity care.

Instead of focusing its efforts on speeding up the process of compensation, the NHS may serve maternity care patients better by focusing on prevention of avoidable harm cases from the start. The Safer Maternity Care plan does address some of these concerns, with recommendations that include adding a funding mechanism for NHS-wide training as well as an innovation fund that promotes the discussion of new ways to go about providing maternity care to a growing patient population. In addition, the recommendations suggest the creation of safe spaces for doctors and medical staff where sharing of information relating to best practices and new ideas for care can be done without barriers or judgment.

While the rapid resolution and redress scheme holds promise for reducing the rising cost of litigation on the side of NHS trusts, families stand to lose overall if the claims process is reduced to a singular focus of quickness. Transparency, instead, needs to be at the forefront of changes to maternity care across the board, with a clear focus on providing suffering families true and accurate answers to their pressing questions, in addition to offering the full financial support they need to move ahead with their lives.

Drink driving and exceptional hardship

drunk driving

Most of us have preconceptions about drink driving. Perhaps you envision someone drinking heavily each evening after work and then driving home. A claim of exceptional hardship might then be thought of as a way for those who frequently drink and drive to avoid the repercussions of their routine behaviour. The facts are much more complicated than that. While an experienced solicitor might help avoid a drink driving ban due to exceptional hardship, it may not be for the reasons you would expect.

Morning after drink driving

As you might imagine, drink driving arrests are most frequent in the evening, however, in 2011 more people failed breath tests between 6 am and 11 am than in the hour before and after midnight. This is largely attributed to people still being over the legal limit for alcohol they consumed the night before. Commuters being arrested for drink driving on their way to work in the morning is quite different from our perception of how drink driving normally occurs.

Since 1970 drink driving fatalities have decreased 83 percent in the UK. This is due to improved vehicle safety, tougher drink driving regulations, and better public awareness of the dangers of drink driving. In spite of these efforts, a report by the UK’s THINK! campaign found that 33 percent of the drivers surveyed were unaware that four or more servings of alcohol consumed at night could still cause them to be legally drunk the following morning. In a different study, 46 percent of drivers were unaware of how long alcohol remained in the bloodstream.

This means more public education is necessary to alert drivers to the perils of morning after drinking. In the meantime, this ignorance leads many morning commuters to face life-altering legal repercussions for what could be a one-time lapse in judgement.

The truth about exceptional hardship

Periodically rulings based on a claim of exceptional hardship make the news. The Telegraph published an article back in 2010 stating that ten thousand people had avoided driving bans that year, in spite of having 12 or more points. The newspaper reported that approximately one in four drivers facing disqualification had been shown clemency by the courts due to exceptional hardship. This prompted some advocates to express concerns about how many people with 12 or more points were able to avoid the driving ban.

The Sentencing Council mandates a tolling up disqualification if a driver reaches 12 points, however, it provides the courts with the ability and the obligation to make a ruling based on the circumstances involved in each specific case. In addition, although a 6-month disqualification is the recommended minimum, the courts are able to adjust the driving ban based on the driver’s history and any mitigating factors. This is an important provision of the law as under the points system a driver might reach the 12-point disqualification level after one speeding ticket and a single drink driving arrest. Another driver might reach the same 12-points whist clearly displaying a high likelihood of recidivism. The courts have the ability to provide for a longer ban if circumstances warrant it while recognising any exceptional hardships a ban might create.

The legal standard is that routine hardship is not sufficient to justify reducing or avoiding a driving ban. Only hardship that is exceptional is considered although other personal circumstances may be a factor in a determination of disqualification. Under the law, a driver who has previously avoided a driving ban due to exceptional circumstances cannot use those same exceptional circumstances in the following three years to fight another pending disqualification, so helping to prevent drivers from repeating driving offences and continuing to avoid penalties. In this way, the exceptional hardship provision protects drivers from being unduly penalised for what might be a single offense while protecting society from repeat offenders.

Recent celebrity cases have brought greater public attention to the concept of exceptional hardship. Where former Manchester United footballer, Ray Wilkins, was awarded a four-year driving ban – Wilkins had a history of drink driving and was arrested after he was found driving erratically and consuming alcohol as he drove –  footballer Joe Cole was able to avoid a one since it was found this would cause his wife exceptional hardship. She was no longer able to drive after being traumatised by a carjacking so she relied on her husband’s ability to do so. In the past, courts have also ruled that exceptional hardship can include the ability to care for one’s extended family or to protect from damage to a business.

However, protecting one’s own job is not considered an adequate reason in itself for waiving a driving ban. For example, a Bradford motorbike instructor’s 4-year driving ban for drink driving was upheld because the judge viewed that the instructor would have been fully aware of the potential consequences of his actions and had foreknowledge that his livelihood would be threatened if he were to commit the offence.

In the UK, the number of drink driving fatalities has stayed fairly consistent since 2010. This prompted Scotland to lower their drink driving limit from 50mg per 100ml of blood in December 2014. In June 2016, legislation to lower the drink driving limit from 80ml to 50ml throughout the rest of the UK was passed by the House of Lords before running out of parliamentary time. The issue is likely to be revisited since a recent study showed 77 percent of UK residents support stricter drink driving regulations. Legislative changes are likely to create new challenges in the future for drink driving solicitors.

Image cc by Ben Salter on Flickr.