How to provide drink-drive rehabilitation scheme (DDRS) courses and the role of the courts.
The opportunity for those convicted of relevant drink offences to attend an approved course is derived from recommendations in the Road Traffic Law Review Report (North, P. 1988) and these are reflected in sections 34A to 34C of the Road Traffic Offenders Act 1988 (RTOA) as amended by the Road Safety Act 2006.
The recommendations led to the creation of the Drink-drive rehabilitation scheme (DDRS), an introduction to which is in part 1 of this document. Under the DDRS, the Secretary of State approves courses for the rehabilitation of drivers and part 2 of this document sets out the approach to the approval process.
Under section 34C (1) RTOA the Secretary of State may issue guidance as to the conduct of approved courses. Such guidance sets out the minimum requirements for course content and delivery and is set out in part 3 of this document. Failure to follow this guidance may result in the withdrawal of course approval.
Additionally part 4 of this document sets out the role of the court and this may assist in promoting consistent application and administrative procedures in the operation of the scheme by courts in England and Scotland.
This document is produced by the Driver and Vehicle Standards Agency (DVSA). It replaces the Department for Transport (DfT) guidance of September 2010.
Other documents to read
Documents to be read in conjunction with the course guidance are:
You can read the following legislation on the legislation.gov.uk website:
- The Rehabilitation Courses (Relevant Drink Offences) Regulations 2012
- Road Traffic Offenders Act 1988
- Road Safety Act 2006
Introduction and aim
This document is comprised of 4 parts and is intended to have application only in England and Scotland:
- part 1 - “Introduction and aim” is an introduction to the Drink-drive rehabilitation scheme (DDRS) and sets out its aim
- part 2 -“Approval of DDRS courses”sets out the approach of the Secretary of State, acting by way of DVSA, to the approval of courses under the DDRS
- part 3 - “The conduct of approved courses” consists of guidance to providers of approved DDRS courses in England and Scotland issued under the Secretary of State’s powers in section 34C (1) of the Road Traffic Offenders Act 1988 (RTOA)
- part 4 - “The role of the courts” explains the role of the courts and is intended as a brief guide to their role in relation to the DDRS for those providing courses and those attending them
Note: In this guide, in relation to England and Scotland, ‘courts’ applies to Magistrates and Crown Courts in England and, in Scotland, Sheriff and District Courts (when constituted by a Stipendiary Magistrate) plus the High Court of Justiciary, unless there is specific reference to ‘supervising court’.
Since 1 January 2000, courts throughout Great Britain have had the power to refer a person to an approved Drink-drive rehabilitation course if convicted of a drink-drive related offence under the Road Traffic Act 1988 (RTA), and for which the court has disqualified them from driving for at least 12 months. The relevant sections are:
- 3A - causing death by careless driving when under the influence of drink or drugs
- 4 - driving or being in charge when under the influence of drink or drugs
- 5 - driving or being in charge with excess alcohol
- 7 - failing to provide a specimen
The new section 34A RTOA expands the range of drink-related offences which fall within the DDRS and these are now referred to as ‘relevant drink offences’. This new section 34A is, in respect of relevant drink offences, fully in force on 24 June 2013. At the time of sentencing for a relevant drink offence a court may make a referral order, reducing the period of disqualification by not less than three months, and no more than one quarter, of the disqualified period on satisfactory completion of a DDRS course.
DDRS courses offered must be approved by the Secretary of State (section 34A(6) RTOA). The courses are intended to offer an educational opportunity to those convicted of relevant drink offences, in order to reduce the likelihood they will reoffend. The approved DDRS courses are not available to those who have committed drug-drive offences.
The significance of the guidance in section ‘The conduct of approval courses’ is twofold: under section 34C(1)(a) RTOA, course providers must have regard to it. Failure to follow this guidance may result in the withdrawal of course approval. Under section 34C(1)(b) the courts shall have regard to the guidance when deciding whether any instructions or requirements of a course provider are reasonable.
The responsibility for the DDRS in Scotland remains with the Department for Transport (DfT).
The responsibility for the DDRS in Wales resides with the Welsh Assembly Government.
This DDRS does not apply to Northern Ireland (NI), but similar statutory arrangements are in place in NI, enabling convicted and disqualified drivers to be offered a referral to a drink-drive related training course approved within NI. There are no reciprocal arrangements between NI and mainland UK for referring offenders. In practice, this means that where a relevant offence is committed in one jurisdiction, the court is unable to refer the offender to a DDRS, or similar, course in the other jurisdiction.
The aim of the DDRS is to provide drink-drive offenders with appropriate education to help them recognise the problems associated with drink-driving. The information and experience provided by the course is intended to enable individuals to change their behaviour, in order to prevent further offending. It is intended to reduce reoffending and contribute positively to improved road safety.
Following the nationwide expansion of the scheme in January 2000 the Transport Research Laboratory (TRL) was commissioned by DfT to monitor the operation of the scheme and to evaluate its effectiveness and the courses provided by individual organisations TRL report number 613. The research found that there was a marked benefit to all offenders undertaking a DDRS course.
Note: The TRL link refers to - The drink/drive rehabilitation scheme: evaluation and monitoring. Final Report. TRL Report TRL613. Smith, L. Buckle, G., Keigan, M, Buttress, S. and Stone, J. (2004).
The TRL report also demonstrated that offenders who had not attended a DDRS course were between 2 and 3 times more likely to reoffend than those who had undertaken a course. This figured applied up to 2 years after the initial conviction.
Section 34A (5) RTOA enables a court to make an order reducing the period of disqualification if, by a specified date, an offender satisfactorily completes a course approved by the Secretary of State.
The purpose of an approved DDRS course is to enable those convicted of certain drink-driving behaviour to benefit from an educational opportunity designed to discourage drink-drive related reoffending, and thereby contribute to reducing road casualties by improving decision making and driving behaviour.
No course has been approved for the purposes of drug-driving rehabilitation.
Approval of DDRS courses
DDRS courses can only be approved by the Secretary of State who, as mentioned, acts by way of the DVSA in this respect. Organisations will be able to submit an application to deliver DDRS courses at any time. Applicants considered suitable to provide courses will be granted course approval. Written feedback will be provided to those not granted course approval. DVSA will consider all applications for course approval based on the published DDRS Course Approval and Quality Assurance Model.
Where the course meets the relevant criteria to be approved, the approval will be granted for a period of up to 7 years, enabling delivery of the approved course in the ‘specified area or areas’ forming part of the application. Successful applicants will have been required to demonstrate their capability to provide sufficient courses for the demand across the entire geographical area for which they are approved; this will be a condition of approval.
Beyond the initial approval it is open to the provider of an approved course to subsequently apply for course approval in another specified area(s), however this will attract a further application fee. Applicants should not assume requests for approval for course provision in another or a different specified area will receive automatic approval. The application requirements referred to above will need to be satisfied for the other or different area(s) requested.
The conduct of approved courses
Attendance at an approved course is dependent on the court making an order to that effect. To assist the courts in referring offenders, course providers might usefully engage with courts and defence lawyers to ensure they are fully briefed on the details of the approved course, including details of locations where courses are held.
The ‘list of approved course providers’ at Annex A to this guidance document shows the current active course providers by specified area, and contains a summary of each provider’s course, locations, course fee and format, together with contact details for the organisation. These Annex A details are published on the GOV UK website for reference by courts, participants and other interested parties.
Course providers are encouraged to build close working relationships with courts in their approval area, in order to maximise the referral of offenders to the DDRS.
This might include:
- making course information freely available to promote the value of the DDRS to offenders, such as the supply of information leaflets about course availability, fee(s) and location, for the court’s waiting room
- holding liaison meetings with courts’ representatives
- offering training to new and existing magistrates, sheriffs and courts’ administrative staff and local solicitors, to promote the value of the scheme in reducing reoffending
Where a course provider receives a court referral, the provider should contact the referred offender as soon as possible. The court referral will include the current address and contact details given to the court during the hearing. Contact should be confirmed (or initiated) as soon as possible after receiving the referral from the sentencing court, to encourage the highest possible rate of course ‘take-up’.
The court sentencing process can be complex for those unfamiliar with it. Therefore in addition to making an initial contact with referred offenders, providers may wish to adopt further pro-active practices to maximise course attendance by sending further letters, emails, texts or other communication to those who have made no contact since their initial referral, in sufficient time to enable the offender to comply with the DDR course completion deadline.
It is advisable to make clear to the offender in the initial contact that courses are normally delivered in English. The communication might also ask if the individual concerned has any special requirements. In order to facilitate access to referred offenders whose first language is not English, and those who have a hearing difficulty, course providers should take reasonable steps, where necessary, to accommodate their requirements. This could include the use of an interpreter or signer.
In providing an interpreter, it is acceptable for the offender to be accompanied by a family relative (over 18 years) to provide translation, however the provider may wish to ensure the interpreter is capable of translating adequately to meet the learning needs of the offender. Some providers have historically used contracted interpreters and it may be possible for providers in general to share these resources.
The presence of an interpreter can, however, be distracting to the rest of a course group. Therefore, to minimise disruption, it is suggested that allowing the use of more than one interpreter per course is likely to be disruptive. Nothing in this guidance prevents a provider enhancing the learning opportunity for participants who do not have English as a first language, where local need requires it, by running a dedicated course in an alternative language, assuming that a suitable trainer, course materials and suitable facilities are available.
Course providers are to verify the identity of course participants to guard against identity fraud. This will include completion of an initial registration form, requiring course participants to provide such details as:
- their full name and address, including post code
- date of birth
- court sentence and, where appropriate, the alcohol level at the time of the offence
These supplied details can be verified during the training delivery against the offender details received from the court.
Providers may also require the production of nationally-recognised documents containing the individual’s signature or photograph such as a passport. In addition, other documentation such as a utility bill, mobile telephone bill or benefits documentation may satisfy the provider. Many course providers require offenders to sign a course register as proof of attendance at each course session.
Where an offender who is offered the DDRS course elects to undertake it in a different area to that in which the sentencing court is located, the court will send details of the offender to the supervising court for that area. It is recognised that a court may not be familiar with DDRS course providers in all parts of the country. Therefore, in order to assist courts in selecting an approved course provider, they should be referred to the Annex A list of approved course provider details which can be found on the GOV UK website.
If, following the issue of a referral order to a course provider, an offender requests to undertake the course in a different specified area not covered by the receiving provider, the course provider need not return the order to the court. In practice, many transfers are arranged between course providers in the best interests of the offender and this is usually acceptable to the courts. In such cases, the original course providers should ensure that the supervising court is notified formally of the change of provider. All course providers and offenders will have access to the Annex A list of approved course provider details to assist when transferring a referral order.
The maximum course fee is currently £250 and this includes consideration of payment processing charges such as cheque, direct debit and credit card payments, BACS transfer or instalment payments. It is important to ensure the fee for attending an approved DDRS course is maintained at a level which is affordable for the large majority of offenders. If fees are set too high this may result in a low take up as described on page 23 of the TRL report number 613 and the courts may be unable to refer offenders in sufficient numbers to make courses viable.
It is for the course provider to decide the course fee level (beneath the maximum fee ceiling) to meet their business model. Course providers should make this information publicly available by notifying DVSA of the fees for inclusion in the Annex A list of approved course provider details. The list of approved course providers are encouraged to keep the fee structure as clear as possible, ideally no more than a full fee, a lower rate for concessionary categories, eg people in receipt of benefits, and a discounted early booking fee, where these options are offered.
Course providers may change the level of course fee originally submitted at course approval by giving DVSA 30 calendar days notice of the proposed change.
A course provider may agree to an offender paying the course fee in instalments, rather than in one single payment. However, the fee must be paid in full before the completion of the course and not exceed the maximum fee.
Where payment is taken by instalment, providers may wish to warn offenders before entering into such an agreement that a certificate of course completion may not be issued if there is a failure to make payment for the course in accordance with section 34B (4) RTOA.
Course providers should not take payment, or place offenders on courses, in advance of receiving a referral order from the court or a transferred order from another provider. If an offender contacts a course provider in advance of their court case or immediately after sentencing but before the referral order is received, the course provider is advised to take the full details and contact the sentencing court directly to check if they are in fact the named course provider. No offender should be encouraged to attend a course or to make payment before the referral order is received from the court. For guidance on the transfer of offenders between course providers after sentencing.
There is no prescribed national model for the delivery of a DDRS course and this approach enables providers a degree of flexibility in detail and delivery. A DDRS course syllabus has been developed with stakeholders, building on the DVSA Safe and Responsible Driving Standard (DVSA, 2010) and this will inform the delivery. Although there may be differences in the approach adopted by providers, all courses are required to meet the learning outcomes of the DDRS course syllabus and the standards described in this guide.
As demonstrated in the DDRS Course Approval and Quality Assurance process , the approved DDRS course content will need to demonstrate clear links to the desired outcome of the DDRS syllabus. Providers of approved courses will also be required to satisfy the Secretary of State that delivery of training is to a level of competence consistent with, or comparable to, recognised delivery standards consistent with the course approval.
Offenders attending the course will likely come from a variety of backgrounds and have different learning styles. Course materials therefore might usefully be presented using a variety of techniques, in consideration of the differing learning styles in seeking to ensure offenders are positively and actively engaged, such as:
- short talks to convey essential information
- group discussion and participation
- self-observation forms/records of behaviour, eg ‘drinks diaries’
- exercises for individual and group discussion, including role play
- audio/visual presentations
- guest speakers, for example subject specialists, magistrates, police, other emergency services, victims of drink-drivers
- information hand-outs
- behaviour analysis, assessing performance and setting objectives
Course providers are given the freedom to construct the delivery of their DDRS course to meet the learning outcomes of the DDRS syllabus within the following parameters:
- not less than 16 hours total tuition time, not including breaks
- minimum of 3 sessions
- course sessions to be spread across a period of at least 14 days
- not less than 4, and not more than 20 participants in any course session
- best practice being for each course to be facilitated by at least 1 trainer to 15 offenders
Where acute or individual circumstances require an exception to the parameters above; including exceeding the recommended ratio it is necessary to notify DVSA by submitting an exceptions report in order that it can be recorded for compliance and quality assurance purposes.
The delivery of the DDRS course syllabus and the opportunity for offenders to develop knowledge and understanding is best served by the learning taking place in a group environment. It is unlikely the same benefits can accrue from training conducted on a ‘one-to-one’ basis.
Complete courses or individual sessions delivered as a one-to-one intervention are not generally acceptable to the scheme. In addition, and to ensure the participant is not disadvantaged, any ‘catch up’ sessions, whether forming part of a programmed course or created separately to cater for clients who have missed course sessions, should also be based on group learning principles.
DVSA recognises the achievement of the scheme’s outcomes rely to a considerable extent on the knowledge, skill, attitude and behaviour demonstrated by course trainers. DVSA require that all DDRS training staff are suitably qualified or have recognised relevant experience.
DDRS trainers may have been recruited to the role from a variety of backgrounds and learning experiences. Many will have been required to demonstrate competence in other adult learning environments which readily map to the DDRS trainer competence framework, or are currently actively working to build the evidence to achieve a recognised adult learning qualification as outlined in the DDRS course approvals information.
The DfT commissioned Competence Assured Solution (CAS) in 2008 to develop a competence framework for trainers and best practice guidance on the recruitment, training and professional development of training staff. The availability of these documents should enable DDRS course providers to consider best practice in creating more robust systems for recruiting DDRS trainers and ensuring they have the necessary knowledge, skills, attitudes and behaviours to deliver DDRS courses consistently and effectively.
The CAS trainer guidance documents may be found on GOV UK as follows:
In addition to ensuring the ongoing quality of training staff, course providers will also need to monitor the input by guest speakers to ensure the content and presentation style are appropriate to the aims of the course and align with the course approval. Such elements will also be assessed by DVSA as part of the quality assurance visit. For example, where an external training resource is being engaged, eg Fire Service, Police or Magistrate, the course provider may wish to reassure themselves the training resource has a level of delivery competence consistent with the course approval, as this will form part of the quality assurance assessment. Where the resource does not have recognised qualification or proven experience, the DDRS trainer may find it appropriate to be present throughout the session delivery.
For the purposes of quality assurance, continuous professional development and the promotion and development of the scheme, it may be necessary for an individual not directly involved in the delivery of the course to request attendance in an observational role. DVSA accepts that so long as no offender who is a participant on the course has objected to the presence of the observer, and the permission is freely sought, an observer should be allowed to join the course to carry out that role.
Where a provider wishes to offer a training course commercially to non-offenders based on the approved DDRS course, providers are reminded that they do so outside the statutory scheme, eg for fleet drivers, and no powers contained within the scheme can be relied upon. DVSA would encourage the use of the approved course for the wider development of driver education and the promotion of road safety.
DDRS courses intended for offenders should be restricted to offenders only.
Course providers may make minor changes to the content and delivery methods of approved courses at any time, provided their course remains consistent with the course approval and does not breach the course guidance. Any other changes deemed significant, such as a change in contact time, may not be introduced without prior notice to allow for the course approval alteration to be recorded.
If there is any doubt as to whether prior approval is required for a proposed change to the course, providers should consult DVSA. Course providers should ensure that DSA and, as necessary, the courts they serve, are notified immediately of any changes to course or contact details.
DVSA will assess the quality and delivery of the approved course using a combination of existing reporting mechanisms, such as the quarterly and annual DDRS reports in addition to assurance visit reports and other sources of information, eg complaints processes and court referral analysis. It is intended that a condition of course approval is that DVSA must be allowed access to any course session for compliance and quality assurance purposes.
The quarterly performance and financial report to DVSA includes the number of referrals received from the court and the number of offenders successfully completing a DDRS course during the period. It will also include the calculation of the per-capita fee to enable DVSA to collect the appropriate fee from the course provider.
The statutory deadline for reporting the quarterly performance and financial data is no later than 14 days after the close of the relevant quarter. A template for reporting is provided at Annex D.
The submission deadline for annual reports is the end of January following the relevant calendar year. A template for annual reporting is provided at Annex C.
In addition to performance and financial reporting the annual report should also provide a summary of course and trainer evaluation demonstrating the transfer of learning consistent with the evidential requirements submitted at course approval stage.
Cessation of course provision
Where the provider of an approved course is no longer willing or able to accept referrals from the courts in the specified area, they must notify DSA in writing of their intention to surrender their course approval and state the date from which this surrender is to take effect. Other than in exceptional circumstances, the course provider should give 3 months’ notice of their intention to DVSA. This notice period will allow for the orderly completion of any outstanding course commitments, provide sufficient time to inform the courts service, amend documentation and, where appropriate consider course approval applications to deliver DDRS courses in the vacated area.
DVSA will consider applications from providers of existing approved courses who are interested in providing their approved course in the specified area(s) served by the outgoing provider.
The incoming and outgoing provider should be prepared to work with each other to minimise any inconvenience to referred offenders. This may include absorbing any outstanding offender commitments from the outgoing provider as well as its historical records. No referred offender should lose the chance to attend a DDRS course as a result of a provider no longer delivering courses.
There is no specific mechanism in the legislation which enables a course approval to be transferred from one course provider to another. In the case of a surrendered approval, DVSA would expect the existing approval to ‘fall’ and look to the existing course approval network to absorb the referrals. It remains open to a new provider to submit an application for course approval for the vacated area.
Where the surrender of the course approval is immediate and no other provider has current course approval for the vacated area, DSA may offer the vacated area to an existing approved course provider. This will be on a temporary basis in order to prevent a break in provision and loss of opportunity to referred offenders, whilst a formal course approval is sought from interested organisations.
Where the legal status of a course provider changes during the period of approval, the existing approval will cease to be valid and can no longer be used. In such circumstances the new entity should apply for course approval.
The Secretary of State may withdraw DDRS course approval where the course provider breaches a condition of approval, disregards this guidance issued by the Secretary of State, or otherwise fails to meet the required standard.
Where approval is withdrawn as referred to in paragraph 3.40 above, the provider should supply DVSA with details of offenders:
- awaiting course allocation
- who are awaiting further communication and/or course confirmation from the provider
- confirmed on future courses
- who have partially completed courses
- who have fully complied with course requirements and not received a certificate of course completion
- who have failed to respond to communication sent by the provider, or failed to attend or complete a course for which a notice of non-completion is required under section 34B(5) and a certificate of course completion has not been issued
A statutory right of appeal to the General Regulatory Chamber of the First-Tier Tribunal exists for those aggrieved by a decision of the Secretary of State to:
- refuse an application for course approval
- grant approval for a course subject to conditions
- withdraw course approval
Further details of the statutory appeal provisions and process are available from DVSA.
Course attendance and completion
Completion of a course, and the consequent reduction in the period of disqualification, will require attendance and completion of the course in accordance with the course provider’s instructions, payment of the appropriate course fee and compliance with the provider’s reasonable requirements section 34B (4) RTOA.
The provider should ensure that each offender has fully completed each course session and is able to provide evidence of attendance, eg by signed course register. Offenders should complete each of the sessions in a logical sequence to progressively build their learning, unless there are wholly exceptional circumstances, such as illness, which make it impossible to do so, and there are no other course options available. This principle also applies to any ‘catch up’ sessions where a part of a course has been missed for any reason.
There is an expectation that course sessions are conducted in an orderly and effective manner, consistent with the order of the court. For clarity, providers might find it useful to issue to offenders a set of clear course terms and conditions, or rules, with which course members are required to comply. A breach of those terms and conditions may render the offender in breach of the course provider’s requirements and so not entitled the offender to a certificate of course completion as provided under section 34B (4) RTOA.
In supporting the learning environment for all offenders, providers should exercise their discretion in the event of a breach of their terms, conditions or rules, by any offender. Unless the matter is a particularly serious incident and requires immediate exclusion, it should be sufficient to issue a first recorded warning to the person concerned about their conduct, but this should not normally lead to exclusion from the session or course.
Under section 34B(4) RTOA a provider must give a certificate of course completion unless the offender fails to pay the due fees, fails to attend the course in accordance with the course provider’s reasonable instructions or fails to comply with any other reasonable requirements of the course provider.
A course provider may wish to consider immediately excluding a person from further course attendance in the event of them being involved in a serious incident such as verbal abuse or an assault or threat of violence to:
- the provider or staff engaged by the provider
- a fellow participant on the course
- venue staff
Any course member found to have driven to or from a course, and thereby having committed the offence of driving while disqualified should be reported to the police.
Where an offender has not been issued with a certificate of course completion, written notice must be issued in accordance with section 34B(5) RTOA. For consistency across the DDRS, this written notice takes the form of a notice of non-completion Annex B.
Where an offender is excluded, and in consequence thereby does not receive a certificate of course completion, a right exists for the offender to apply to the supervising court to challenge the course provider’s decision not to issue such a certificate under section 34B(6) RTOA.
It is advisable, therefore, for providers to keep an accurate written record of attendance, misconduct, and disruptive behaviour, relating to any warnings issued and any exclusion as this may be required as evidence in court proceedings.
Where an offender completes a course satisfactorily, the course provider is required to certify the completion by the issue of a certificate of course completion and give it to the offender no later than 14 days after the latest date for completion of the course section 34B(4) RTOA.
Although not required under the RTOA, it has become good practice for the provider to send the certificate of course completion on the offender’s behalf to the supervising court, copying it to the offender at the same time.
Course providers are responsible for printing and issuing the ‘certificates of course completion’ and ‘notices of non-completion’ These are available at Annex B.
The certificate and notices will be numbered serially to enable identification of the course provider and to whom a certificate of course completion or notice was issued. The form and content of the certificate of course completion are determined by the Secretary of State. No other form of certificate of course completion is recognised by the court.
It is the offender’s responsibility to apply for a new driving licence before the end of the reduced period of disqualification. This is done using form D1 and D750 which are available from post offices or the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency (DVLA).
Failure to complete a course
Where an offender does not complete a course satisfactorily, the course provider shall notify the offender of his decision in writing as soon as possible and in any event no later than 14 days after the date specified in the order as the latest date for completion of the course section 34B(5) RTOA.
A ‘notice of non-completion’ has been adopted as the formal notice document of good practice and to enable a consistent standard across the scheme. A copy of the notice of non-completion template is at Annex B.
Written notice referred to in the paragraph above shall be issued to an offender who has failed to:
- pay for the course
- attend the course in accordance with the course providers’ reasonable instructions
- comply with any reasonable requirements of the course provider
The notice of non-completion needs to set out the reason for the decision not to issue a certificate of course completion section 34B(10) RTOA and any other circumstances which contributed to the offender failing to complete the course. The notice will draw attention to the offender’s right under section 34B(6) RTOA to make an application against the course provider’s decision.
Issuing a notice of non-completion in these circumstances should avoid the likelihood of a successful default action under section 34B(6) RTOA against the course provider.
Her Majesty’s Court and Tribunal Service (HMCTS) agree that under current legislation the courts have no power to extend the latest date for completion of a DDRS course following sentence.
Where it is clear that a referred offender will be unable to complete a DDRS course with the specified provider before the latest date for completion, it should be explained to the offender in clear terms that no extension in the deadline date is possible and that the provider will be obliged to issue a notice of non-completion.
This may be avoided if it is possible to arrange for another course provider to provide a course which can be completed by the deadline date without breaching other course requirements. In such circumstances, the sentencing court should be informed of the transfer and the reasons for it.
Notices of non-completion must be sent to each offender who fails to satisfactorily complete the course by the deadline (relevant) date specified in the order, even where there has been no communication from the offender.
Course providers should obtain a certificate of posting for each notice of non-completion that they issue in order that the notice is treated as having been given. This can be in the form of a bulk certificate of posting provided that the name and address of each intended recipient is shown and the date of despatch.
The postal carrier’s endorsement of the certificate is required and the course provider might find it useful to keep the certificate as evidence in the event that an offender claims that a notice of non-completion was not issued.
There is no requirement to copy notices of non-completion to DVLA or to the supervising court as the offender will by default, be required to complete the full period of disqualification imposed during sentencing. However if the court wishes to receive them, copies of the notices of non-completion can be sent to the court by first or second class post.
Complaints and appeals
To assist in the management of complaints made by offenders, course providers should ensure offenders have access to information about the course provider’s complaints procedure. DVSA will make use of this procedure in the first instance in the case of a complaint being made direct to the agency, unless it is inappropriate to do so.
Since an offender may challenge a decision not to issue a certificate of completion it is in the interests of each course provider to be able to show to a court that their reasons for not granting a certificate were properly founded on one or more of the matters set out in above.
Special needs and reasonable adjustments
Course providers are reminded of the obligations under The Equality Act 2010 so as to avoid discrimination against those with disabilities in the provision of approved DDRS courses. In particular, under this legislation ‘service providers’ must make ‘reasonable adjustments’ to remove any barriers that could make it difficult or impossible for people with a disability to access their services. Under the Disability Discrimination Act (DDA) it is unlawful to treat people with a disability less favourably than others for a reason related to their disability.
The duty to make reasonable adjustments is not unqualified. Course providers should establish whether, in any particular case, they are obliged to make adjustments to assist a referred offender, and what adjustments are reasonable taking into account all the relevant circumstances. Course providers may choose to make adjustments beyond those required by the DDA.
Ultimately, it is for the courts to interpret the law in any dispute over the meaning of a particular legislative provision, and in this case what is ‘reasonable’ in consideration of what adjustments may be necessary. There are, however, a number of sources of advice available to course providers to assist them in reaching an equitable conclusion in each case. Much of this is available from the Equality and Human Rights Commission.
Other statutory obligations
Providers are reminded of their duty of care requirements for offenders attending their courses and are expected to meet their statutory obligations. Course providers are also reminded they have a legal obligation in delivering an approved DDRS course to comply at all times with relevant areas of law applying to their organisation and its activities.
DVSA may withdraw a course approval if breaches of the course provider’s legal obligations are brought to the attention of DVSA, indicating that the provider has ceased to be an appropriate person to provide the course and administer its provision efficiently or effectively.
The role of the courts
Making of referral orders
Courts have powers to make a referral order where an offender is disqualified for 12 months or more on conviction of one of the following offences under the RTA 1988:
- causing death by careless driving under the influence of drink (section 3A)
- driving or being in charge of a vehicle when under the influence of drink (section 4)
- driving or being in charge of a motor vehicle with excess alcohol (section 5)
- failing to provide a specimen for analysis (section 3A or 7) or to allow a specimen to be tested (section 7A)
The DDRS course is not an ‘approved course’ for those convicted of drug-driving offences only. It is, however, acceptable to refer an individual to an approved DDRS course if he or she had committed an offence involving both drink and drugs. Such an offender could usefully benefit from drink-drive education.
There is no legal bar to offenders being referred on a second occasion to an approved DDRS course. This is a matter for the sentencing court. In England the Magistrates’ Courts Sentencing Guidelines (2008 p.186) state that courts should consider offering the opportunity to attend a course to all offenders convicted of a relevant offence for the first occasion. The court should be willing to consider a further opportunity on a second occasion - it will not usually be appropriate to give an offender the opportunity to attend a third course.
Where an offender is disqualified from driving for a relevant drink offence for a period of at least 12 months, the court may make an order that the period of disqualification shall be reduced if, by the ‘relevant date’, the offender satisfactorily completes an approved DDRS course section 34A RTOA.
The ‘relevant date’ means a date at least 2 months before the last day of the period of disqualification as reduced by the order section 34A (6) RTOA.
The provision of the 2 month period referred to above is necessary for the course completion to be notified to the court, and in turn to the DVLA, so that the reduced period of disqualification can be applied to the driver’s record. For example, a 12 month disqualification, with a 3 month reduction for completion of a DDRS course, enables a reduced period of disqualification to 9 months. Section 34A (6) RTOA requires that an additional 2 months be subtracted from the reduced period (9 – 2 months) giving a ‘relevant date’ for completion as 7 months after the date of conviction.
An order referring an offender to an approved DDRS course will be made at the time of sentencing only and recorded in full in the court register (the court minutes in Scotland). No provision exists in the RTOA for the offender to return to court following the original sentencing to apply for the DDRS course. Nor is there power in the RTOA to extend an existing deadline where the offender has, or is likely to, fail to complete the course before the latest date for completion announced at court during sentencing.
Offenders may only be referred to a DDRS course approved by the Secretary of State section 34A(5) RTOA.
Under section 34A(9) RTOA, before the court makes an order, it is required to ensure that:
- a place is available on an approved course
- the offender appears to be of, or over, 17 years of age (referral can be by adult or youth courts)
- the court has informed the offender (orally, or in writing, and in ordinary language) of the effect of the order, and of the amount of fees the offender is required to pay for the course, and when they must be paid
- the offender has agreed that the order should be made
Where an offender appeals to the crown court (or an appeal court in Scotland) against the sentence, the court will reconsider the sentence and the order for referral to an approved course. The crown court (or appeal court) will have regard to the effect that any variation of the sentence may have on the validity or appropriateness of the course and the reduction in the period of disqualification allowed on successful completion of the course.
As in the magistrates’ court (or sheriff’s court in Scotland), the exact period of reduction decided upon should be specified in court. An order for referral to an approved course may be made in the crown court (or appeal court) even when no such order has been made in the magistrates’ court. If the crown court (or appeal court) reduces the disqualification period or overturns the conviction, it should inform the course provider and the supervising court accordingly.
It is commonplace for legal advisors and court ushers to assist an offender by providing further information, particularly where the sentencing court’s area is served by several providers, or where the offender requires a course provider in another area. DVSA maintains an up-to-date list of active approved DDRS course providers, Annex A which are on the GOV UK website.
In addition to the course and its completion deadline, courts are asked to include, on the courts ‘Libra’ form the offender’s alcohol reading and details of penalties imposed as these are helpful in checking against identity fraud. Courts are encouraged to use the Criminal Justice Secure Mail (CJSM) email system to forward referrals to DDRS providers.
Once a referral order has been made, it is important that the offender and the course provider are notified in writing without delay. Courts are not encouraged to batch referral orders and forward periodically. Any significant delay will reduce the time the offender has available to attend and complete the course by the court deadline.
Delays may also restrict the course options the provider is able to offer the offender. Where different from the sentencing court, the supervising court should also be notified of a course referral. There is no need for a referral order to be copied to DVLA.
Note: ‘Supervising court’ as defined in section 34C (3) RTOA means ‘in England and Wales, if the crown court made the order the Crown Court and otherwise a magistrate’ court acting for the same local justice area as the court which made the order, and (b) in Scotland, the court which made the order.’
When referring the offender, court staff are requested to specify on the referral order whether the offender has any identified special needs identified during the hearing, for example accessibility requirements or where an interpreter has been used in the case, this will ensure suitable arrangements can be made to enable full engagement on the DDRS course.
Since December 2008, courts throughout England have been able to generate course referral notifications through the courts’ information system ‘Libra’. Within Libra, courts should use the following documents:
- notice of disqualification from driving/endorsement of licence (DRVORD)
- notice about reduction in disqualification (RDNOTD)
- notice to course manager (RDNOT)
- notice to supervising court (RDNOTOC)
The resulting process in Libra will also trigger electronic notification of the disqualification to DVLA and to the police and the Police National Computer (PNC). However, Libra is not designed to record or transmit any updates after the initial result, such as a subsequent reduction in the disqualification period following successful course completion.
The courts’ information system in Scotland, ‘COP II’, currently has no equivalent documents for notification of course referrals. All referrals are therefore notified by the issue of a court order in paper form. Courts should ensure that copies are sent to the offender and course provider at the earliest possible opportunity, in order to maximise the opportunity for the offender to attend a suitable course.
Although made at the time of sentencing, referral to the DDRS is voluntary and an offender may undertake a course at any time, providing it is completed by the completion date. It may be advisable for courts and course providers to take active steps to encourage offenders to undertake courses at an early opportunity, in case unforeseen circumstances endanger course completion before the deadline section 34A (5) RTOA.
Where an offender who is offered the DDRS course elects to undertake it in a different area to that in which the sentencing court is located, the court will send details of the offender to the supervising court for that area. Courts should use Libra document RDNOTOC (notice to supervising court) for this purpose.
There is no separate or additional penalty imposed if an offender agrees to accept a referral order at the time of sentencing and subsequently declines to attend, or is unable to attend a course. In such a case the offender will not receive a certificate of course completion, and will not be entitled to a reduced disqualification period.
The DDRS provider is required to give written notice to the offender of the decision not to issue a certificate of course completion as soon as possible and in any event not later than 14 days after the date specified in the order as the latest date for completion of the course section 34B(5) RTOA. This written notice has been standardised as the ‘notice of non-completion’ recognised across the scheme see Annex B.
High Risk Offenders (HRO) who were referred to an approved course (and whether or not they completed it) are required to satisfy the Secretary of State that they do not have an ‘alcohol problem’, and are fit to drive, before their licence is reissued. This includes submitting to a medical examination by a DVLA approved medical practitioner. Course providers should be prepared to give guidance to those identified by the court as HRO.
Note: High Risk Offenders - Specified in regulation 74 of the Motor Vehicles (Driving Licences) Regulations 1999 (SI 1999 No. 2864): persons disqualified from driving for being two and half times or more over the prescribed limit; for failing without reasonable excuse to provide a specimen for analysis; or for being unfit to drive through drink or driving with an alcohol concentration above the prescribed limit on 2 or more occasions within 10 years.
The National Probation Service in England and Wales currently offers, in some areas only, an intensive supervised programme entitled ‘Drink Impaired Driver’ (DID). This workshop for drink-drive offenders is run over several weeks, attendance at which can be made a condition of a community-based sentence, where the nature of the offence is thought to require a higher degree of intervention.
There is no available reduction in the period of driving disqualification for satisfactory completion of a DID course, as it is not within the DDRS. However, attending a DID course does not prevent a court additionally referring an offender to an approved DDRS course, completion of which would result in a reduction in the period of disqualification.
Subsequent applications to the court by an offender
Where the offender wishes to challenge a decision not to issue a certificate of completion, a statutory option exists. An application may be made to the supervising court by the offender under section 34B(6) RTOA for a declaration against a course provider’s decision not to issue a certificate of completion. The court may issue a summons directing the course provider to attend a hearing to consider the application and the applicant should also be informed of the date of hearing by the court.
In England and Scotland any such application must be made in accordance with court rules. The court will endeavour to ensure that any application is considered promptly so that, if it decides to grant the application, a reduced period of disqualification can still take effect.
If a course provider fails to give either a certificate of completion or a notice of non-completion to the offender within 14 days of the latest date for the completion of a course specified in the order the offender may apply to the supervising court for a declaration that the course provider is in default section 34B (8) RTOA. If the court grants the application, the reduced period of disqualification will apply as if a certificate of course completion had been received by the court section 34B(9) RTOA.
In Scotland the court procedures for applications, such as those under sections 34B(6) and (8) RTOA, are laid down in the relevant rules of court, namely the Act of Adjournal (Criminal Procedure Rules) 1996. The procedure is flexible, but the course provider may be required to lodge written answers to the application before a date for hearing the application is fixed. The period in which any application may be made is 28 days as laid down in the Act of Adjournal.
Where the court has made a decision in the applicant’s favour and orders a reduction in the period of disqualification, and in any case where the disqualification was suspended, it must notify DVLA of its decision under section 34B(11) RTOA. This notification should be made on the same form as for the notification of a reduced period of disqualification following completion of a course and should at the same time be copied to the local PNC bureau.
Appeal by a course provider
A course provider has a right to appeal to the First-Tier Tribunal if aggrieved over the Secretary of State’s refusal to grant course approval, grant of approval subject to condition or withdrawal of course approval.
Contact DVSA if you have any questions about this guidance.
Drink-drive rehabilitation scheme
Post Test Operations
Driver and Vehicle Standards Agency
The Axis Building
112 Upper Parliament Street
Phone 0115 936 6241