Driving Disqualification: Mutual Recognition

Updated: 29 October 2018|Legal Guidance, Driving offences

Introduction

On the 30th October 2015 the UK and Ireland signed an agreement on Mutual Recognition of Driving Disqualifications. This agreement replaces the 1998 European Convention on Driving Disqualifications which the UK opted out of as part of the block opt-out from the Treaty of Lisbon on 1 December 2014.

The Criminal Justice and Courts Act 2015 has amended the Crime (International Co-Operation) Act 2003 and now provides the mechanism by which the agreement (between the UK and Ireland) is given legal effect.

The mutual recognition of driving disqualifications came into force on 1 August 2017.

Effects of mutual recognition of driving disqualifications with Ireland

The Crime (International Cooperation) Act 2003 (CICA) now allows for mutual recognition of driving disqualification between the UK, Northern Ireland and Ireland. The CICA provides the method by which a driving disqualification imposed in Ireland on a UK resident, or a holder of a UK driving licence, for certain offences will be recognised and given effect in the UK.

Similarly the CICA provides provisions for driving disqualification imposed by the UK on an Irish resident, or a holder of an Irish driving licence, for such offences to be notified to the appropriate Irish authority so that the driving disqualification may be recognised and given effect in Ireland.

Categories of driver behaviour

The following driver behaviours/conduct, are contained within the annex to the agreement and are mutually recognised:

  1. Reckless or dangerous driving (whether or not resulting in death, injury or serious risk).
  2. Wilful failure to carry out the obligations placed on drivers after being involved in road accidents.
  3. Driving a vehicle while under the influence of alcohol or other substances affecting or diminishing the mental and physical abilities of a driver
  4. Refusal to submit to an alcohol and/or drug test
  5. Driving a vehicle faster than the permitted speed limit
  6. Driving a vehicle whilst disqualified
  7. Other conduct constituting an offence for which a driving disqualification has been imposed by the state of offence:
    • of a duration of 6 months or more or
    • of a duration of less than six months where this has been agreed between the Contracting States.

Driving disqualifications imposed for an offence arising from the conduct referred to above, is a disqualification which is recognised under the Agreement, even if the actual offence committed is not an offence in the UK. The offence must arise out of one of the above categories.

An example where this may apply is on drink driving. England and Wales has an alcohol blood limit of 0.8 milligrams of alcohol per 100 millilitres of blood. Ireland has a limit of 0.5 and 0.2 for newly qualified drivers and professional drivers. Therefore someone with a blood/alcohol level of 0.6 would not necessarily be disqualified in England and Wales but would be disqualified in Ireland.

Disqualifications which have arisen from the accumulation of penalty points – ‘totting up’ – are not subject to the arrangements.

Application of the arrangements

In accordance with s.55 of the CICA, when a defendant is convicted of a qualifying UK road traffic offence, and a driving disqualification is imposed and that individual resides in Ireland, or is not normally a resident but holds a Republic of Ireland licence, then mutual recognition arrangements apply and the UK authorities must notify the Irish authorities.

It must be noted that the obligation to notify arises after the time limit for appealing has expired and no appeal is brought. Or if an appeal is brought, after the proceedings are concluded.

In practical terms the following will take place:

  1. The UK court will inform the driver of its decision and the period of disqualification stands throughout the UK including GB and Northern Ireland, whatever decision is taken by the Irish authorities (Section 55(2)(f) CICA).
  2. The court then notifies DVLA/DVA (in the case of Northern Ireland) of the disqualification and if any appeal was lodged. The court must send a certified copy of the extract from the court register or the certificate of conviction.
  3. If an appeal is lodged by the driver and the appeal is not lodged on the same day as the conviction/ sentence, the courts are responsible for letting DVLA/DVA know separately, if such an appeal is lodged within the appeal period relevant in each jurisdiction.  The courts must also inform the DVLA/DVA of the outcome of any appeal.
  4. The DVLA/DVA will write to the driver to say notification is being sent to the Road Safety Authority, Ireland under s55 of CICA.
  5. The DVLA/DVA will send notification under s55 of CICA to RSA Ireland (with pro forma, MR1) who will disseminate this to the 28 Regional Offices, with a copy of the court register extract or certificate of conviction and the driver's driving licence - if it has been surrendered.
  6. If the court allows an appeal outside the usual time limits, the courts must let DVLA/DVA know after the result of the appeal.
  7. If there is a change in the sentence (e.g. reduced period of disqualification), the courts will inform DVLA/DVA
  8. The DVLA/DVA will notify the Road Safety Authority (RSA) in Ireland by pro forma for “update” or reduction/removal of disqualification (MR2), if it is suspended during a late appeal or when the outcome of the appeal is known.

If the UK is notified from Ireland regarding a UK resident driver, or a holder of a Great Britain or Northern Ireland licence, who has been convicted in an Irish Court, then the following process will take place:

  1. The DVLA/DVA receives notice from RSA, Ireland of a disqualified driver who is either normally resident in the UK, or is not normally resident in the UK but holds a Great Britain licence or a Northern Ireland licence.
  2. The DVLA/DVA send a Section 57 CICA notice to the driver, as confirmation that the disqualification is being applied in the UK, after the expiry of the period of 21 days (+ service of notice) from the day on which the notice is “given”. “Given” means served in accordance with section 71 of CICA. The licence is endorsed for 4 years from the date of conviction in the Irish Court.
  3. The driver is able to appeal against the disqualification being imposed under Section 59 CICA to the magistrates’ court if resident in England and Wales, to the sheriff’s court if resident in Scotland, or to the court of summary jurisdiction if resident in Northern Ireland, within 21 days of service of the Section 57 notice. The driver can only appeal against the disqualification being applied in the UK under Section 59 of CICA. The UK court cannot reopen the case, overturn or change the decision of the Irish court to disqualify.  Nor can it decide length of the disqualification which should apply. The UK court can only consider whether or not section 57 should apply, that is whether the conditions in section 56 are satisfied.
  4. The driver must inform the DVLA/DVA if they have lodged an appeal. The DVLA are responsible for defending the decision to apply the disqualification in Great Britain. In Northern Ireland, Departmental Solicitors will be responsible for defending the decision made by the DVA.
  5. If on appeal the disqualification is not applied by the UK, the UK is obliged to inform the state of offence, i.e. Ireland. The court will notify DVLA/DVA in the UK and the DVLA/DVA will inform RSA in Ireland.

Where an appeal by summary application is unsuccessful there are no specific powers for DVLA to seize the relevant driving licence, but if it is produced in court it should be forwarded to DVLA accordingly.

Offences

If a driver is disqualified in the UK as a result of the recognition of an Irish disqualification, and continues to drive in the UK the driver commits the offence of driving whilst disqualified contrary to s.103 of the Road Traffic Act 1988. In Northern Ireland the driver will be committing the offence of driving while disqualified in accordance with Article 168A of the Road Traffic (Northern Ireland) Order 1981.

If the driver has not returned their licence to the DVLA/DVA by the expiry of the 21 day period of the s.57 notice, then the offence contrary to s.63 of CICA is committed in Great Britain. Within Northern Ireland it is s.64. The offences are summary only with a fine of not exceeding level 3.

Calculation of remaining period of time to be served by a UK resident for a disqualification incurred in Ireland

Within the UK the DVLA/DVA will apply a “same end date” approach. When the disqualification period ends in the place where the offence occurred, the disqualification will end in the UK on the same date.

In the UK, if we recognise a disqualification incurred in Ireland, the disqualification cannot take effect in the UK until notice has been served by DVLA/DVA on the driver. That Section 57 notice must state when the disqualification starts and ends in the UK. In practice we are deeming as having been served any period of time from the date the disqualification starts in Ireland to the time it takes effect in the UK.

The administration time must be kept to a minimum as the driver may serve a significantly shortened period of disqualification. Delays may occur between courts and the licensing authorities, with time taken to send the pro forma between Ireland and the UK and time taken to recognise the driving the disqualification by UK or Ireland driving authorities.

Corresponding conditions

If an Irish court imposes a disqualification with a ‘re-test’ condition before the disqualification period is lifted, the UK will also require the driver to re-sit their driving test. If an Irish court imposes any other conditions the UK will only be able to impose the disqualification, and not any conditions.

Questions and Answers

This guidance has been supplied by Department for Transport (DfT).

What is the position concerning licences of another EU Member State held by UK or Irish residents?

The mutual recognition arrangements apply to individuals who are normally resident in Ireland or the UK, or if not normally resident in Ireland or the UK, hold a Republic of Ireland or Great Britain or Northern Irish licence. It is possible that some of these individuals may be licence holders of another EU Member State rather than GB, NI or IRL licence holders. If the driver decides to return to the EEA state that issued the licence permanently, and the disqualification has not expired, he/she should notify DVLA/DVA so that they may return the confiscated licence to either the driver or issuing authority as appropriate. Sections 65 (4),(5) and (6) CICA cover this situation and DVLA/DVA staff will be issued with further guidance on these provisions. 

Driver surrendering the driving licence in court?

UK courts are already advised to ask disqualified drivers to surrender their licence to the court (section 27 RTOA in GB and Article 29 of the Road Traffic Offenders Order 1996 in NI). This means that any licences surrendered by Irish resident drivers to the court will subsequently be forwarded on to DVLA/DVA. When DVLA/DVA notifies Ireland the pro forma will attach any Irish/Community licence surrendered. The driver will have to ask the Irish authorities (DoT/RSA) for its return for any period when the driver is not disqualified e.g. the time taken to arrange a hearing date with the Irish courts. 

There is no power in Ireland for the courts to ask for the surrender of the licence; in practice it is likely that DVLA/DVA will have to recover the licence from the driver when sending the Section 57 notice (letter informing UK resident driver that their Irish driving disqualification applies in the UK). Even if the licence is not given up by the driver, the DVLA database will be amended to record the disqualification.

Will the UK recognise a condition attached to an Irish disqualification and apply it in the UK when applying the disqualification?

It is rare for the Irish Court to impose any condition other than a "re-test" condition. If the Irish Court imposes a “re-test” condition then, in addition to the period of the disqualification having to be served, the driver would also have to retake the driving test. If the driver passed the re-test in Ireland this would be recognised in both Ireland and the UK as satisfying the re-test condition. But the driver could also satisfy this condition for the UK if the re-test is taken in the UK.

Can drivers resident in Ireland go on the UK rehabilitation course if convicted for drink/driving in the UK?

Mutual recognition makes no difference to present arrangements. Any driver convicted in GB of drink driving may be referred by a court to an approved drink drive rehabilitation course. A non GB resident would have to be prepared to attend and complete a course in GB.

Will the Irish authorities require copies of written summonses?

No. We are required to confirm if the defendant knew about proceedings; DVLA will do this when they notify the Irish authorities. It is feasible that in some specific cases the Irish courts may ask for further documentary evidence, but we expect these to be few.

How do the Irish authorities take follow up action when the driver returns to Ireland?

Ireland has adopted a slightly different mechanism from the UK in giving effect to a disqualification.  DVLA notify the RSA Ireland. There are 28 regional licensing authorities in Ireland and the Department sends details to the relevant region. They make arrangements with the local Irish court for the case to be heard before the judge. It is the court who decides how the disqualification will be applied in Ireland.

What is the effect of a UK driver being disqualified by an Irish court?

DVLA will send a letter to the driver to inform him/her:

  • That notification from Ireland of a disqualification has been received;
  • the dates disqualification takes effect from and to in the UK and;
  • the need to surrender the licence, if it has not already been surrendered to the Irish courts.

If the driver does not appeal within 21 days, the driver’s licence is endorsed for 4 years.

Do courts have to take an “Irish” endorsement into account if the driver is sentenced in court for another offence committed in the UK?

There is no mutual recognition of penalty points between the jurisdictions, so the UK court cannot take into account Irish penalty points, for totting up purposes.  However, the court has a wide discretion, in considering whether to impose discretionary disqualifications in the UK, to consider all mitigating or aggravating factors.  The court therefore may consider the driver’s licence history generally.

What happens if the driver is caught driving in the UK with a “mutual recognition” disqualification in force? 

The driver is committing an offence of "driving whilst disqualified” in accordance with s.103 Road Traffic Act 1988 (in NI the offence is committed in accordance with Article 168A of the Road Traffic (Northern Ireland) Order 1981).

What happens if the driver claims as part of his/her appeal that it is a case of mistaken identity?

DVLA can ask the Irish authorities for further information. The most appropriate time to seek this would be before any appeal is heard. If, in spite of further information, the driver continues to claim mistaken identity then it will be for the court to decide whether the disqualification should be applied in the UK.  The original decision to disqualify made by the Irish courts will remain effective in Ireland unless the driver chooses to take up the issue with the Irish authorities.

When the arrangements are live, is the date of conviction or the date of the offence used to determine if the driver falls within the arrangements?

The date of conviction, on the provision that the date of the offence was no earlier than 1 August 2017.

For drink/driving offences, does a disqualification incurred in Ireland by a UK driver mean that the driver must be placed on the UK’s High Risk Offenders (HRO) scheme?

Not at present. However, we shall be working with the Irish authorities to consider applying the HRO scheme to such drivers. 

What offence codes will be allocated on a driving licence to disqualifications imposed as a result of a disqualification in Ireland?

The categories and the offence codes DVLA will use for each category are shown in the table below.

Driver Behaviour

GB Offence Code

NI Offence Code

Reckless or dangerous driving

MR09

IRL01

Hit and run driving

MR19

IRL02

Driving whilst under the influence of alcohol/drug

AND

Refusal to submit to a drug/alcohol test

MR29

IRL03

Speeding

MR39

IRL04

Driving whilst disqualified

MR49

IRL05

Other road traffic offences resulting in a disqualification period of 6 months or more, (or a lesser duration where this has been agreed).

MR59

IRL06

 How long will that endorsement (see question above) remain on the licence and the record?

Four years from date of conviction in Ireland.

Further reading