YES, I'M AFRAID so.
If you’re disqualified here its recognised in the UK.
And vice versa.
The law that made this possible (Mutual Recognition of Driving Disqualifications, 2015) was introduced to capture people driving across our porous borders with Northern Ireland.
Unique among countries Ireland and the UK have an understanding that is relatively unknown internationally.
In almost all cases, a court conviction is enforceable in that country only.
That means that a driving ban imposed by a German court, generally, has no enforceability in Spain or France.
Or Ireland for that matter.
The exception here is the Treaty of Mutuality which deals with disqualifications imposed by the national courts of Ireland and the United Kingdom.
If you’re banned from driving in the UK that ban will be enforceable in Ireland.
And vice versa.
Driving bans in Ireland will be recognised in the UK and you will be banned from driving over there too.
HOW DOES THIS WORK?
A client of mine was arrested for drink driving in Co. Antrim in July 2021.
He was brought before Ballymena Magistrates Court the next day and pleaded guilty. He was convicted and disqualified from driving for 12 months.
In November 2021 he received a letter from the Chief State Solicitor for the County he lived in.
The letter contained a copy of an Application that the State Solicitor was going to bring before the District Court close to where my client lived.
The Application informed my client that the State Solicitor was going to ask the local District Court to recognise that the disqualification imposed in Northern Ireland had validity in the Republic of Ireland.
That meant that the Irish court would formally disqualify him from driving in the Republic.
The Application contained some paperwork.
One of the letters was from the Driver and Vehicle Licencing Agency (DVLA), the UK government website that contains details of drivers in the UK and Northern Ireland.
This letter indicated that my client was disqualified from driving in Ballymena Magistrates Court in July 2021.
The ban imposed in the court in Northern Ireland was affirmed by the court in the Republic and he was formally disqualified down here.
THE REAL WORLD.
A lot of people are not aware of any of this.
Most people believe (not unreasonably) that a disqualification only has effect in that country.
This mistaken view can have life-altering consequences.
I recently represented a client in a court close to the border with Northern Ireland.
The client had a very responsible job in the public sector in the UK.
He was a school’s administrator in the Department of Education in Manchester.
He was also a single father.
In July 2021 he had returned to Ireland to visit relatives in that border town, on the Southern side.
One night while he was waiting for a taxi, he sat into a car to keep warm.
It had been unseasonably cold that night.
He turned the key in the ignition to switch the engine on to keep warm.
A taxi was called, and he had met the taxi driver who said that he had one fare to complete and would be with him to take him home shortly.
He sat back into his car.
The Gardai appeared and seeing my client sitting in the front seat of a car arrested him for being drunk in charge.
This is the charge brought when the Gardai see you drunk behind the wheel of a car, but not driving.
On conviction the penalty is an automatic disqualification.
My client had taken legal advice and had decided to plead guilty. He did so despite firmly believing that he had a valid defence: he had not intended to drive, he said, and had witnesses who would attest to this fact, the taxi driver being the most obvious one.
But the costs of traveling over and back to court in the Republic from Manchester every time the case was in court was too much for him and he wanted the matter concluded quickly.
Besides, he reasoned that he could live with a disqualification from driving in Ireland.
So, in September 2021 he pleaded guilty in court and was disqualified from driving for 2 years in the Republic of Ireland.
IN MID-JANUARY 2022 he received a letter delivered to his home in Manchester.
The letter was from the DVLA informing him that they had received notice from the Irish authorities confirming that he had been disqualified from driving in the Republic of Ireland.
As a result, the letter stated, he was now regarded as being disqualified from driving in the United Kingdom, effective immediately.
This was a catastrophic development.
He was the father of three teenage children, two of whom he drove to and from sports activities a few times of week.
He lived in a suburb of Manchester where public transport was sporadic.
He then began to mentally calculate the numbers of tiny journeys he took in the car ever week, popping down to the shops, dropping kids to friends, picking up kids from town. These were all of the things that those of us who have children know quite well.
His car was vital.
It was vital not just to his domestic life, but also to his job. He was a school’s inspector. He travelled to schools to monitor teaching operations all over the Greater Manchester area.
If he was put off the road, he couldn’t do his job.
He’d lose his job.
That meant not being able to pay his mortgage and maybe losing his home.
All of the horror scenarios played out in his head.
ONE OTHER HUGE problem presented itself.
Whenever a person is convicted of any offence, they have 14 days after the conviction date to appeal.
After those 14 days you cannot appeal any longer.
Now, sometimes people miss the 14-day “window” by a few days, due to oversight or failure to understand, and in those cases the courts are generally sympathetic.
They will often “extend time” to allow you to file your appeal papers.
Its important to understand that the decision to allow a person to “extend time” i.e. to re-open the 14-day window, say after 20 or 30 days, is entirely at the discretion of the Judge.
They can allow it or refuse it.
Their decision here is final.
It cannot be appealed.
But after a month or more, a month or more past the 14-day time limit, they will want clear reasons why they should extend the time to allow you to appeal.
And if those reasons aren’t sufficiently good enough, they will refuse to extend time.
That means you cannot appeal.
The Judge has complete freedom to grant it or refuse it.
And their decision is final.
In our case we were appearing before the border court fully 10 months after we had been disqualified from driving.
If the Judge in our case had dismissed our Application to extend the 14-day window to appeal, that would have been the end of the matter.
My client’s disqualification would have been permanent in the UK from that moment and his job would have been at immediate risk.
His employers had been aware of this Application before the court and they were waiting to see what the outcome was.
The Judge listened carefully to our Application.
He was naturally very sceptical about extending time after so long a period had elapsed.
He wanted details.
Why had it taken so long to decide to appeal?
After all, the Judge didn't want others thinking they could rest on their laurels and decide to appeal whenever it suited them.
He wasn't about to create a precedent.
However, he took a very fair view of the case and understood the catastrophic consequences for my client if the Application was refused.
To my client’s tremendous relief, he agreed to extend the time to appeal and my Client signed the Appeal papers there and then.
That was an enormous event for my client, something we had spoken about for 4 months.
Everything depended on this moment.
It was also an example of where Judges often have to thread the tricky needle of being both fair to the defendant before them, as well the wider public at large.
(details of my client have been altered to protect their identity).