Laser pen users may face prison sen­tence

Peo­ple en­dan­ger­ing ve­hi­cles tar­geted in crack­down

Harefield Gazette - - NEWS - By Amita Joshi amita.joshi@trin­i­tymir­

PEo­PlE shin­ing laser pens at planes or any mode of trans­port could face a jail sen­tence and hefty fines un­der strict new gov­ern­ment crack­downs.

Laser pen ac­tiv­ity at a plane, train, car, bus or taxi will be made il­le­gal, in what Trans­port Sec­re­tary Mr Grayling calls a ‘ com­mon sense ap­proach to dan­ger­ous be­hav­iour’.

It is cur­rently an of­fence to shine lasers at pi­lots, with those re­spon­si­ble fac­ing fines of up to £2,500 – but it must be proved the per­son had en­dan­gered the air­craft.

Mr Grayling said: “Whilst we know laser pens can be fun and many users have good in­ten­tions, some are not aware of the risks of daz­zling driv­ers or pi­lots putting pub­lic safety at risk.

“That’s why we want to take the com­mon sense ap­proach to strengthen our laws to pro­tect the pub­lic from those who are un­aware of the dangers or, even worse, in­ten­tion­ally want to cause harm.

“This kind of dan­ger­ous be­hav­iour risks lives and must be stopped.”

Last year, Heathrow Air­port saw a wor­ry­ing rise in the num­ber of laser pen at­tacks, putting the safety of pas­sen­gers and cabin crew at risk by ob­scur­ing the vi­sion of pi­lots.

Dr Steve Schall­horn, chief med­i­cal direc­tor at Op­ti­cal Ex­press and a for­mer US Navy pi­lot, said there needed to be more ed­u­ca­tion about the ir­re­versible eye in­juries that can be caused by laser pens.

Laser at­tacks on flights at Heathrow are on the rise, with the lat­est sta­tis­tics from the Civil Avi­a­tion Author­ity (CAA) show­ing in­ci­dents more than dou­bled since the pre­vi­ous three-month pe­riod.

Heathrow Air­port suf­fered 14 at­tacks be­tween April and June 2015, which rose to 35 in the year’s third quar­ter, from July to Septem­ber, the most re­cent fig­ures avail­able.

A spate of in­ci­dents saw Heathrow suf­fer two ‘at­tacks’ within 10 days in Fe­bru­ary 2016.

A Vir­gin At­lantic flight head­ing for New York had to dou­ble back on it­self as a ‘pre­cau­tion­ary mea­sure’ due to the copi­lot feel­ing un­well af­ter a laser at­tack on Fe­bru­ary 14.

Eight days later, an­other laser was shone at a Bri­tish Air­ways flight on Mon­day Fe­bru­ary 22, but it did not en­dan­ger the air­craft and the plane was landed suc­cess­fully.

CAA’s lat­est re­port also showed that Heathrow Air­port suf­fered more laser at­tacks than any other UK air­port, up to Septem­ber 2015.

A Heathrow Air­port spokesper­son pre­vi­ously told the Gazette the air­port ‘has a very ro­bust se­cu­rity regime in place’ and ‘is al­ways re­spon­sive and vig­i­lant when it comes to new threats’.

They added: “As part of that regime, we don’t com­ment on the spe­cific mea­sures we have in place, but will con­tinue to work with part­ners to en­sure that UK airspace re­mains safe.”

NOT A BRIGHT IDEA: Heathrow has seen an in­crease in laser at­tacks in the past eight months

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