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Chris Huhne & Vicky Price

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In the recent case of R v Huhne & Pryce, a wife had taken penalty points on behalf of her husband which resulted in both parties being convicted of perverting the course of justice.

The motivation for this at the time of the original speeding offence was to avoid Chris Huhne reaching 12 penalty points on his driving licence or ‘totting up’. This usually results in a minimum 6 month disqualification, something both parties were keen to avoid due to Mr Huhne’s promising political career, as stated by Mr Justice Sweeney – “You CH were, at that time, involved in a contest to gain the Lib Dem nomination for the Eastleigh constituency, and I have no doubt that both of you were concerned that the loss of your licence CH (whoever drove for you during the period of disqualification) might damage your image, and thus your chances of success.”

In this situation, many could have been tempted to follow a similar path to ensure that a driving disqualification was avoided, especially those who rely on their licence for work in these difficult economic times.

However reaching 12 penalty points does not automatically need to result in a disqualification. There is an argument that can be put forward called ‘exceptional hardship’. If this is successful then although the points are imposed on your licence, the Court does not disqualify you from driving.

In this case, the judge made it clear that any attempts to deceive the authorities as to the identity of the driver at the time of an offence would be severely punished;

“However, it must be clearly understood that it amounts to the serious criminal offence of doing acts tending and intended to pervert the course of justice and that, save in the most exceptional circumstances, an immediate custodial sentence must follow.

“Indeed, in my view, this is the type of offence which requires the court to underline that deterrence is one of the purposes of sentence.”

Clearly the risk of any such decision far outweighs the potential benefits to be gained, especially when there is such a viable alternative which will avoid disqualification. It should also be clear that the risk is not just to the person who had committed the original offence but also to the individual who helps them avoid the imposition of points. The consequences of this can result in two people receiving a custodial sentence as opposed to one person, who may well be able to avoid a disqualification, receiving penalty points.

By Alex Garner

If you are facing a driving offence then do not hesitate to call us on 01616 966 229 for free initial guidance on your options.