How is the best way to avoid being disqualified when you have 12 points?
We are often asked what our success rate is. This is hard to set a figure for a lot of cases because success means different things to different people.
Did we avoid prison for a client when they may have gone to prison, is that a success? Did they get a lower prison sentence or shorter driving ban than the guidelines? Is that a success?
We have always been wary of publishing success rates because they can be so vague.
However there is one area where it really is black or white. Totting up disqualifications. This is where you get to 12 points and the court have to disqualify you for 6 months unless you can show that you, or others would suffer exceptional hardship.
If we get a tough case we always make sure our Steve Williams covers the case, with experience in over 200 courts he has a fantastic success rate. In fact we can’t remember him last losing an exceptional hardship case so we decided to go back through the records for this year.
He did lose a case, once and it still hurts him that his 100% success rate has been blemished.
We asked him what constitutes a good argument for exceptional hardship.
The first thing to realise is that it has to be exceptional, if the disqualification will cause inconvenience, or difficulty that is not enough. That’s the normal hardship the court would expect to see. It has to be a lot more than that. Losing your job can be exceptional but is not enough on it’s own, you have to show the consequences of losing your job. If you have savings and can survive for 6 months that won’t be exceptional. Can you get another job? Will your employer offer you an office based job? These are all questions that have to be explored.
“I have sat and watched hundreds of cases where people have represented themselves or appointed a cheap legal aid lawyer to save money and I cringe when I hear them. People think that these are easy but they aren’t, you are asking the court to find something exceptional. Defendants and even lawyers just don’t drill down deep enough into these cases and aren’t prepared for the cross examination. When my team prepare a case like this I always cross examine them on it as if I am the toughest prosecutor. Can you get a taxi? how long does it take on the bus? When is the earliest train you can get? Can someone else drive you?”. These are the sort of questions that a lot of people aren’t prepared for. I want it absolutely water tight before we go into court, I want train timetables, quotes from taxi firms, letters from the family. I don’t want to just say we can’t survive without a car I want to prove it.
My goal is that by the time we have finished our case neither the court nor the prosecutor can think of a question to ask that hasn’t already been covered.
So what about the one you lost?
Well I thought it was a tough decision to be honest but we scored a bit of an own goal. I always go through the case with the client beforehand, I make sure they know what to say if there are any questions and I always tell them to be confident in their answers. As I say normally there are no questions but on that occasion the prosecutor was training a colleague and even though we had covered everything he felt the need to ask the questions again. He asked if the client was sure he would lose his job, we had covered this, the letter from his company covered this but the client got nervous and said ‘I’m not sure, probably’ and that gave the court an opening. They felt that it wasn’t 100% certain he would lose his job and because he lived alone no one else would suffer so they decided not to allow it. I advised him that he should appeal but he decided he didn’t want to, I even offered to reduce my fees to try and maintain the 100% but he found a way around it and decided against appealing.
Is that really the only case you have lost this year? No, I did lose another one and I was furious about it, it was a bad decision and I told him to appeal which he did and the Crown Court agreed it was a bad decision and allowed him to keep his licence. We also have another one going to appeal that was a very poor decision and I am sure the Crown Court will overturn it.
What is the one piece of advice you would give someone in this situation?
“Get a good lawyer – I’m bound to say that but I really mean it. If your licence is important to you it is worth investing in and not cutting corners. You can always call me for a free assessment, I tend to know within 5 minutes if it is a strong case and I will always be honest and tell you if it’s not – I’ve got a reputation to keep after all and can’t afford to lose cases.
For a free and honest appraisal of our chances of success call us on 01623 397200