Driving Disqualification: Mutual Recognition

Legal Guidance, Driving offences

Published: February 2010

The Law

With effect from 28 January 2010 mutual recognition of driving disqualifications between the United Kingdom and Republic of Ireland came into force. This was done under the framework of the European Convention on Driving Disqualifications of 17 June 1998 ("the Convention "). The purpose of the Convention is to prevent drivers disqualified from driving in a Member State of the European Union (EU), other than their own, from escaping the consequences when they return home. Although the Convention enters into force only when all signatory Member States have adopted it, it allows Member States to apply its terms early. The Governments of the UK and Ireland have exercised this option, enabling mutual recognition of driving disqualifications between their respective jurisdictions.

The primary legislation to give effect to the Convention in the UK was introduced through the Crime (International Cooperation) Act 2003 (CICA) and Regulations to bring the agreement into law in Great Britain (GB) were laid before the House on 25 November 2008, with similar Regulations being laid in Northern Ireland (NI).

Effects of mutual recognition of driving disqualifications with Ireland

If a driver resident in the UK is disqualified from driving in Ireland, the disqualification will also apply in the UK. The driver will be informed of any remaining period of disqualification due to be served in the UK; the driving licence must be surrendered until the disqualification period has been served in full and it will be an offence to drive in the UK during that period.

Likewise, if a driver resident in Ireland is disqualified in the UK, the disqualification will also be applied in Ireland by the Irish authorities.

Application of the arrangements in the UK

If Ireland disqualifies a driver resident in the UK, and if the driver has been given an adequate opportunity to defend himself within the laws of Ireland, the UK will impose the disqualification here.

The offence must have resulted from conduct defined in the Convention. The arrangements cover 6 categories of driver behaviour or conduct:

1. Reckless or dangerous driving;
2. Hit and run driving;
3. Driving whilst under the influence of alcohol/drugs (and refusal to submit to a test);
4. Speeding;
5. Driving whilst disqualified;
6. Other road traffic offences resulting in a disqualification period of 6 months or more.

Conduct which gives rise to the disqualification may be covered by the Convention and therefore by the arrangements, even if the offence committed is not an offence in the UK.

Disqualifications as a result of accumulating penalty points ("totting up") are not included in the arrangements, for the time being, as this gives rise to additional complications and would require further primary legislation.

In Great Britain, the driver will be notified by the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency (DVLA) and in Northern Ireland by the DVA (NI) , that the disqualification has been recognised and of the period of disqualification due to be served in the UK.

The UK will not recognise a disqualification imposed by Ireland unless the right of appeal has already been exhausted in Ireland.

The driver has a right of appeal in the UK against the disqualification being imposed in the UK, through the magistrates' courts in England and Wales, the court of summary jurisdiction in Northern Ireland and through Sheriff Courts in Scotland. The original reasons for the disqualification cannot be reopened, since the opportunity to appeal should have already been exercised or exhausted in Ireland. However, there may be limited grounds, for a further UK appeal, if the driver believes the circumstances set out in section 56 of the Crime (International Co-operation) Act 2003 (CICA) do not apply, for example, if the driver had not been notified of the proceedings in Ireland.

Any period of the disqualification already served in Ireland will be taken into account.

Corresponding conditions imposed

When an Irish Court imposes a disqualification with a "re-test" condition before the disqualification period is lifted, the UK will similarly require the driver to re-sit their driving test and apply a "re-test" condition here. It is rare for the Irish Courts to impose any other conditions, but if they did, then the UK will only impose the disqualification period without any conditions.

Irish residents who commit driving offences in the UK

The DVLA will notify the Irish authorities of anyone resident in Ireland, regardless of nationality, disqualified by the UK courts for any driving offence which falls in category 1 - 5 above. For offences falling within category 6, notification will be sent to the Irish authorities if the disqualification period is for 6 months or more.

No notification will be sent by the DVLA to the Irish authorities until the driver's right to appeal against the UK court's decision has been exhausted.

The Irish authorities are responsible for arrangements for recognising the disqualification in Ireland.

Calculation by the DVLA/DVA of the remaining period of time to be served by a UK resident for a disqualification recognised as a result of an offence committed in Ireland

It is important that there is prompt administrative action for the application of the disqualification in the UK and that length of disqualification served here is not unnecessarily shortened by the method of calculation of the due period.

The UK will generally apply a "same end date" approach so when the disqualification period ends in Ireland the disqualification in the UK will end on the same date.

An example for illustrative purposes:

Driver is convicted and sentenced for drink driving in Ireland on 1 January 2011 for 12 months. Disqualification is due to end in Ireland on 31 December 2011.

Ireland notifies the UK. DVLA or DVA writes to driver on 1 February 2011. Disqualification takes effect 21 days (plus, for example 2 days for service) later (to allow for the 21 day CICA right of appeal which exists in the UK).

Period served in the UK is between 24 February 2011 to 31 December 2011.

In the UK, if we recognise a disqualification incurred in Ireland, the disqualification cannot take effect in the UK until notice has been served on the driver. The notice under section 57 of CICA 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.

It is important to ensure that administration time is kept to a minimum as the driver may otherwise serve a significantly shortened period of time.

A delay may arise from:

  • time taken in administrative systems e.g. from courts to licensing authorities
  • time taken to send the notification details between Ireland and the UK
  • time taken to recognise the disqualification e.g. DVLA sending notice to the driver in the UK or Irish licensing authorities arranging a court date in Ireland.

Every effort will be made to ensure that administrative delays are minimised and this will be kept under review after the mutual recognition of driving disqualifications with Ireland is implemented.

Exception to the "same end" date approach within the UK

If the driver lodges an appeal against the disqualification being recognised in the UK under section 59 of CICA, the UK courts have discretion pending appeal to suspend the disqualification being applied in the UK. If the disqualification is suspended and later reinstated because the appeal is unsuccessful, the disqualification period in the UK will end later than it ends in Ireland.

An example to illustrate this:

Driver is convicted and sentenced for drink driving in Ireland on 1 January 2011 for 12 months. Disqualification is due to end in Ireland on 31 December 2011.

Ireland notifies the UK. DVLA writes to driver on 1 February 2011. Disqualification takes effect 21 days, plus 2 days, later on 24 February 2011. Driver lodges an appeal and court agrees to suspend disqualification in the UK.

Appeal heard on 1 May 2011 and disqualification reinstated.

Disqualification ends in the UK 91 days later than in Ireland (that is the period between 24 February 2011 - 1 May 2011).

Surrender of licence

UK courts are already advised to ask disqualified drivers to surrender their licence to the court (sections 7(1) and 27 Road Traffic Offenders Act 1988 [RTOA] in Great Britain). This means that any licences surrendered by Irish resident drivers to the court will subsequently be forwarded on to DVLA. When DVLA notifies Ireland it will attach any Irish licence surrendered. The driver will have to ask the Irish authorities (Department of Transport/Road Safety Authority [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.

Questions And Answers

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

Application of mutual recognition of driving disqualifications in the UK

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

DVLA or DVA 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. Even if the licence is not given up by the driver, the DVLA or DVA database will be amended to record the disqualification.

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 add on 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.

Application of mutual recognition of driving disqualifications in Ireland

How does mutual recognition apply to Irish residents who offend and are disqualified in the UK?

If a driver resident in Ireland commits an offence in the UK which falls under the Convention's categories of conduct and is disqualified, and if the appeal process in the UK against the original disqualification has been exhausted, the UK will notify the Irish authorities. The Irish authorities are then responsible for arrangements to recognise the disqualification in Ireland.

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

The Irish have adopted a slightly different mechanism from the UK in giving effect to a disqualification. DVLA or DVA will notify the Irish Department for Transport. 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.

When 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 will be used, regardless of when the offence was committed.

How long will an endorsement remain on the licence and the record?

Four years from date of conviction in Ireland.


NB: The following answers relate to Great Britain, because they are referable to GB legislation. Different legislation applies in Northern Ireland.

Could a UK driver convicted of a drink driving offence in Ireland be subject, where appropriate, to 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.

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 Great Britain 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 DfT-approved course.

If a driver continues to drive when disqualified under the terms of the mutual recognition of driving disqualifications what happens?

If a driver who is disqualified in the UK as a result of the recognition of an Irish disqualification continues to drive in the UK and is caught by the police, then he/she is committing the offence of "driving whilst disqualified" (s.103(1)(b) Road Traffic Act 1988). If the driver has not returned the licence to DVLA by the expiry of the 21 day period in the s.57 notice, there is also a further offence of failing to deliver the licence (see s.63, s.64 and s.65 CICA).

Offence Codes allocated on a driving licence

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 below.

  • Reckless or dangerous driving (whether or not resulting in death, injury or serious risk) - MR09
  • Wilful failure to carry out the obligation placed on drivers after being involved in road accidents (hit and run) - MR19
  • Driving a vehicle while under the influence of alcohol or other substance affecting or diminishing the mental and physical abilities of the driver - MR29
  • Driving a vehicle faster than permitted speed - MR39
  • Driving a vehicle whilst disqualified - MR49
  • 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 - MR59

EU Member States other than the UK and Ireland

Why is there no mutual recognition of disqualifications with other EU Member States?

We agree in principle that cooperation over disqualifications between Member States other than with Ireland is desirable. Any EU Member State may wish to enter into similar arrangements with us in the future. At this stage we have no expectation of any other Member State doing this. If they did we would need further Regulations in the UK and, if changes in arrangements were contemplated, further public consultation would be needed. The arrangements with Ireland will provide us with practical experience in advance of possible future approaches from other Member States.

How does mutual recognition of driving disqualifications affect driving licence holders from other EEA Member States?

The mutual recognition arrangements apply to residents of Ireland and the UK, regardless of nationality or the origin of the driving licence. It is possible that persons normally resident in UK or Ireland may be licence holders of other EEA (i.e. any EU Member States or Norway, Liechtenstein or Iceland). Whilst such a licence holder would be disqualified from driving in UK or Ireland, this would not affect their right to drive elsewhere in the EEA. Sections 65 (4) (5) and (6) of CICA cover this situation.

How does mutual recognition of driving disqualifications affect driving licence holders from countries which are not other EEA Member States?

As in the answer to the previous question, if the non EEA licence holder is normally resident in UK or Ireland, mutual recognition will apply, disqualifying that person from driving in either jurisdiction. However, if that licence holder is a UK resident who was disqualified in Ireland, there is no requirement to surrender their licence to DVLA or DVA following receipt of the section 57 notification.

Further reading