Driving Disqualifications – Lifetime Ban?

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Driving Disqualifications – Lifetime Ban?

The Court of Appeal has issued guidance on whether it is ever appropriate to disqualify someone from driving a motor vehicle for the rest of their life.

The Court was considering a case where a Judge made the following remarks when imposing such a ban:

"… you are an absolute menace to other road users. You have been disqualified from driving on at least 24 occasions and you still go on doing it. You take absolutely no notice of these disqualifications that are imposed upon you and we are told also from your record that you have been convicted of driving with excess alcohol some nine times."

The grounds of appeal advanced by the applicant were that disqualification from driving for life was wrong in principle and was excessive.

It was argued that it would prevent the applicant's rehabilitation, that the judge failed to take proper account of his age and that the circumstances of the offence were not very exceptional.

The reference to "very exceptional" was a reference to a decision of the Court of Appeal in a case called Tantrum (1989) 11 Cr.App.R.(S.) 348 where, in the judgment of the Court, Gatehouse J. said:

"In any event, the disqualification for life should be a penalty imposed only in very exceptional circumstances. Normally disqualification should not inhibit too much rehabilitation of the offender. Very long disqualifications tend to do just that and cause further crimes to be committed."

The Court of Appeal referred to the decision in the case of Phillip King (decided on March 2, 1992) in which Morland J., giving the judgment of the Court, said this:

"With regard to the disqualification for life, in our judgment, in the absence of psychiatric evidence that a defendant will indefinitely be a danger to the public if allowed to drive, or evidence of many previous convictions indicating that a defendant will indefinitely be a danger to the public if he is allowed to drive, it is inappropriate to impose a disqualification from driving for the rest of a defendant's life."

Therefore, such disqualification will rarely be appropriate.

In the case before the Court on this occasion, it was said:

"...although the Court agrees, without qualification, that this applicant is an absolute menace to other people now, the Court is not convinced that there are such very exceptional circumstances requiring disqualification for life, or that we should conclude that he will be a danger to the public indefinitely.

We consider that his contempt for the law is properly marked by the sentence of imprisonment that was imposed but that for a man of only 30, disqualification for life was not an appropriate penalty to impose.

...this Court will deal with the matter today by quashing the life disqualification and substituting for it a period of disqualification of 10 years running from today."

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