Former Norwich City footballer Zak Whitbread cites ‘exceptional hardship’ to avoid driving ban

Former Norwich City footballer Zak Whitbread has kept his driving licence despite clocking up 17 penalty points, after pleading that he needed it to get another job in football because of his release by the Canaries.

The 28-year-old released by the club at the end of the 2011/12 season pleaded “exceptional hardship” when he appeared before Norwich magistrates yesterday.

He admitted two speeding offences and was handed eight more points to the nine already on the licence which took the total to 17 – five more than the number that normally leads to a ban.

But Whitbread, through his solicitor Simon Nicholls, pleaded that he was now unemployed after being released by the club, and would not be able to find another job in football if he did not have a licence.

Mr Nicholls said that if his client had a job he would not have been able to use the special defence and would have had to make alternative travel arrangements, but as he was out of work, he qualified for the “exceptional hardship” defence.

Magistrates accepted the defence, but the chairman of the bench, Amjad Malhis, warned Whitbread that he had come very close to losing his licence and said he would not be able to use the defence in future.

Whitbread was fined �780 plus a �15 victim surcharge and ordered to pay �85 costs.

Most Read

As reported, the tall, blond-haired defender failed to earn a new contract with the Canaries after playing just 18 games in the Premier League last season. The American joined the Canaries in January 2010 and made a total of 48 appearances for the club.

Whitbread, of Beech Drive, Little Plumstead, pleaded guilty to driving his Audi at 37.1mph in a 30mph limit in Grapes Hill in Norwich on October 15 last year.

He also admitted speeding in Fen Ditton in Cambridgeshire on January 8 in another Audi, on the A14, at 97mph in a 70mph speed limit.

The sentence was criticised by the Brake road safety charity, whose spokesman Ellen Booth said: “Penalty points are given for a reason.

“Once you reach 12 points you have had multiple opportunities to change your ways.

“We believe that drivers who reach 12 points should face a ban.

“We have campaigned to raise awareness of this issue.

“By failing to ban a driver with more than 12 points on their licence, it does undermine the whole system, and sends out the wrong message.

“We therefore feel in this instance that the footballer should have faced a ban.”

It’s not the first time a sportsman has been spared a driving ban after using the “exceptional hardship” defence.

Last year champion jockey Kieren Fallon escaped a ban at Lincoln Magistrates’ Court after arguing he could not afford to add a full-time driver to his entourage.