Exceptional Hardship For PTSD
I was contacted recently by Tom, an ex-serviceman suffering with severe PTSD. He was at risk of losing his driving licence for 6 months as a result of reaching 12 penalty points.
I explained that he would require an Exceptional Hardship application, guided him through the process, and told him how much our fee would be for this service.
He told me immediately he couldn’t afford to pay.
He was out of work due to his PTSD and had no savings. He thanked me for my help, but said he would have to try to present the case himself.
I immediately felt that I had to help this man, and I told him that as a thank you for his service for his country, my firm would prepare his case and represent him in Court free of charge.
It is not unusual for law firms to offer pro bono work like this, and it is very rewarding.
I had no idea just how rewarding this particular case would be.
In order for Tom to avoid the 6 month ban, I had to show that the ban would cause him or someone else Exceptional Hardship.
I quickly realised that whilst Tom did transport his elderly father to hospital occasionally, and help out with a charity football team as a minibus driver, these arguments would not be strong enough to convince the Court.
If Tom was going to keep his licence, he had to rely on his PTSD, which meant him opening up to me about the atrocities that he had lived through while serving in the Army.
Tom agreed to speak to me about this. I warned him that I would have to ask him difficult questions, to put his PTSD into context and show the Court how vital it was for his mental health that he have the freedom to leave the house and not be ‘trapped’.
In an incredibly emotional conversation, Tom spoke about his background, his impeccable record of service in the Army, his beloved father and family. Finally, I had to ask about what he had experienced while serving in the Army.
Tom broke down immediately, sobbing heavily before passing the phone to his wife. Once he had physically left the room, his wife shared with me Tom’s experience of being captured whilst serving abroad and being kept underground for days with the rest of his group who were captured with him. She told me in graphic detail what Tom had witnessed over the course of the many days that the group were captured, and revealed that only Tom and one other had made it out of there alive.
For Tom, feeling trapped anywhere was a huge trigger of being kept in ‘the hole’. Losing his licence for 6 months would isolate him and take away one of the only sources of pleasure in his life; the freedom to set off and go into the open countryside whenever he wanted or needed to.
I asked my senior partner, Steve Williams, to represent Tom, something he agreed to immediately.
In Court, Steve presented the case on behalf of Tom, who cried throughout. Steve realised that simply telling the magistrates that Tom had had a bad experience in service would not give them the understanding they needed, so he apologised in advance and then shared the full, graphic story with them.
The magistrates were visibly upset and immediately granted the Exceptional Hardship application, allowing Tom to continue to drive.
Tom sent a lovely eMail after his hearing:
THANKYOU Thankyou thankyou Steve was amazing as I told him you are x
Tom (although, of course, that’s not your real name!), if you’re reading this – you are the amazing one.
Thank you, again, from all of us here at Forrest Williams, for your service.