Wednesday, 20 December 2017

New law against laser pointer use

Under new proposals there will be severe punishments for offenders shining laser pens at air, ground or sea vehicles. The new law has been put forward by the transport department.

The first reading of the Laser Misuse (Vehicles) Bill took place at the House of Lords on 20 December 2017. This stage is a formality that signals the start of the Bill's journey through the Lords. The second reading will include the general debate on all aspects of the Bill and will take place on 9th  January 2018.

Amateur astronomers with laser pointers should exercise caution.

The current legislation punishes someone found guilty of shining a laser at an aircraft with a maximum fine of £2,500.  The new laser misuse (vehicles) bill, published today, expands the types of transport that are covered to include trains, buses, boats and hovercraft.

There has a been a steady increase in incidents involving the misuse of lasers since 2011. Approximately 1,250 cases were reported in total in 2016. Laser beam attacks at Heathrow airport rose by 25% in the last year.

When a laser beam hits the windscreen of a cockpit glass the light spreads dazzling the pilot and making it very difficult to see the ground.

People convicted of shining a laser at the operator of any vehicle could face five years in prison. The Department for Transport (DfT) has put forward tough new penalties for the offence, including unlimited fines. The Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy is also considering the findings of a call for evidence on updating regulations for selling laser pointers.

Tougher new law

The new law will make it easier to prosecute offenders by removing the need to prove they intended to endanger a vehicle. It will be an offence to dazzle or even distract the operator of a vehicle either deliberately or if reasonable precautions to avoid doing so are not taken.

Laser pointers

Laser pointers or laser pens are portable, low-powered, battery-operated hand-held devices. They are often used during presentations in astronomy to point out or highlight a planet or a star. They produce a small and narrow beam of visible red or green light.

Laser pointers purchased from reputable UK sources are limited in their power density so that damage cannot be caused to the eyes. However, there are laser pointers sold online, often from sellers in the Far East, that are much more powerful.

Up to date information on the Laser Misuse (Vehicles) Bill at:
UK Parliament - Laser Misuse Vehicles Bill

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