A tenacious lawyer has won a battle with the Parish of St. Helier and DVS to change the details on his driving licence – achieving a result that could have implications for thousands of islanders.
27-year-old Szymon Durlo moved to the island nearly two years ago and changed his Polish driving licence to a Jersey one, as he is required to do by law.
But on receiving his licence from the Parish of St. Helier, which follows guidance set by the Driver and Vehicle Standards department, he was surprised to discover that the dates on the back of his card – giving details on what categories of vehicle he could drive – referred to when the licence was issued rather than from when he had passed his tests.
Knowing that insurance or hire companies often want proof of how long you have been driving, Mr Durlo asked that the dates from his Polish licence was transferred to his Jersey one, to reflect the length of time he had actually been driving.
It took seven months of toing and froing, before the parish and DVS finally relented – and reissued Mr Durlo with a licence containing the details he wanted.
“There are potentially tens of thousands of islanders in Jersey who have been issued with incorrect driving licence when they exchanged their foreign-issued licence for a Jersey one, as required by law,” he said.
“Why is this the case? Isn’t the whole purpose of the exchange that the qualifications obtained in the country of origin are equally as valid as those issued in Jersey, thus preserving continuity?”
Pictured: Mr Durlo says his decision could have implications for thousands of islanders. (GoJ)
He continued: “Now, the authorities have realised that it’s wrong, but how long has it been issued like this in Jersey? The longest I managed to find is 20 years. Yes, Jersey parishes have been exchanging and issuing the wrong driving licences for more than 20 years.
“That means an incredible number of people in Jersey have one of their main identification documents issued with the incorrect date.”
It appears that not just newcomers to the island are affected. Every licence in Jersey has ‘section 10’ dates for when the licence was issued by the parish rather than when the driver was first eligible to drive whichever categories are listed.
Mr Durlo added: “You might ask, why does this matter? Well, if you apply for insurance cover, the insurer might demand that you show proof that you qualified as a driver a certain number of years ago to qualify for a discount – to show that you are an experienced driver.
“If such proof is not provided - and your original licence is taken away during the exchange - your insurance premium might be higher.
“Secondly, if you wish to rent certain vehicles in Jersey or abroad, many rental companies will only rent to drivers qualified a certain number of years before – so a person affected would not qualify to rent such vehicle. They might also charge higher rental insurance premiums to those who cannot prove they held their qualification for long enough.
“And if the person affected were to ever leave Jersey and try to exchange their Jersey licence in another new country, the local authorities would most likely be forced to transcribe their Jersey licence – thus the incorrect dates would continue ‘for life’, regardless of where you live.
Explaining why he was raising this issue, Mr Durlo said: “I arrived in Jersey nearly two years ago and last year I was forced to finally exchange my licence.
“To my surprise, the incorrectly dated licence was issued to me. When I raised this with the person in the St. Helier Parish Hall, I was told: 'That’s how it’s always been done.'
“As a lawyer, I'm not a person who is easily dissuaded when I see a mistake, especially by such illogical justifications. I therefore went as high in the parish ranks as I could, only to be met with a lack of co-operation, understanding and the same answer: 'That’s how it’s always been done.'
“After months of trying to fight this, I finally worked my way ‘up the ranks’ to people who had the power and know-how to discuss this with me in detail.
“This matter was then taken forward to all the relevant departments and a consensus reached that my position was in fact correct and that my licence must be re-issued.
“After around seven months of fighting, I finally hold the correct licence and I want make all other affected islanders aware of their right to replace theirs – which should now be as straightforward as attending their local parish hall and requesting a correction.
“If any islanders were negatively impacted by having the incorrectly dated licence thus far, and damage can be evidenced, such as through higher insurance premiums etc, they might have legal recourse against the parish for the damages.”
Pictured: Mr Durlo said the error might mean some islanders have legal recourse against the parishes.
Approached by Express for comment, the Comité des Connétables – made up of the 12 parish heads - said it would be reviewing the matter at their next meeting early next month.
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