Stop the ‘laser­wield­ing id­iots’

THOSE CAUGHT TAR­GET­ING PLANES CAN FACE FIVE YEARS IN JAIL

Uxbridge Gazette - - News - By QASIM PERACHA qasim.peracha@trin­i­tymir­ror.com Twit­ter: @qasim­per­acha

“LASER-wield­ing id­iots” who tar­get the planes land­ing at Heathrow Air­port could now spend up to five years in jail.

Heathrow Air­port has recorded more in­ci­dents of peo­ple shin­ing lasers to­wards the cock­pits of planes than any other air­port in the world.

In 2017 alone there were 107 in­ci­dents of lasers be­ing fired at cock­pits re­ported to the Civil Avi­a­tion Au­thor­ity (CAA).

The next high­est num­ber of recorded in­ci­dents was at Gatwick with 70, fol­lowed by Manchester Air­port with 63.

How­ever, the phe­nom­e­non seems to be one that is more preva­lent in the UK than any­where else.

Heathrow recorded more than seven times the num­ber of laser in­ci­dents than any air­port out­side the UK, with the worst af­fected out­side the UK be­ing Naples in Italy and Lyon in France, with 15 each.

Lasers can be ex­tremely dam­ag­ing to vic­tims’ eye-sight and can daz­zle driv­ers and pi­lots, harm­ing their vi­sion tem­po­rar­ily or even per­ma­nently.

A spokesper­son for BALPA, the pi­lots’ union, said: “989 laser at­tacks on UK air­craft were re­ported to the CAA in our airspace and 243 overseas.

“That’s 1,232 times that pi­lots were daz­zled and dis­tracted or, look­ing at it an­other way, lives were put in dan­ger on av­er­age over three times ev­ery sin­gle day last year by laser-wield­ing id­iots.”

A new tougher law against any­one shin­ing lasers at ve­hi­cles, in­clud­ing cars, trains, planes and boats, called the Laser Mis­use (Ve­hi­cles) Act comes into force on Tues­day July 10.

Un­der the new law, any­one convicted of breach­ing the act could be handed an un­lim­ited fine, a five-year prison sen­tence or both.

BALPA and the De­part­ment for Trans­port had been work­ing on the leg­is­la­tion, which in­creases the pos­si­ble sen­tence from a £2,500 fine.

The act will also pro­tect air traf­fic con­trollers. Ac­cord­ing to the govern­ment, an in­creased polic­ing fo­cus and tougher leg­is­la­tion has al­ready yielded results, with March see­ing the low­est num­ber of in­ci­dents since 2009.

Baroness Sugg, the Avi­a­tion Min­is­ter, said: “Lasers, used reck­lessly, can have very se­ri­ous, po­ten­tially fa­tal con­se­quences. This govern­ment has tough­ened up the law to crack down on this dan­ger­ous be­hav­iour. These new laws of­fer greater pro­tec­tion for oper­a­tors and pas­sen­gers alike against ir­re­spon­si­ble and reck­less laser use.”

Mean­while, BALPA is urg­ing that all lasers be “dis­abled and dumped” if not ex­pressly re­quired.

The union be­lieves that the pub­lic mis­tak­enly iden­tify lasers as toys and even hand them to chil­dren to play with, but that this can have dras­tic con­se­quences.

Head of flight safety at BALPA Dr Rob Hunter said: “The pub­lic needs to recog­nise that lasers are not toys and shin­ing one at an air­craft en­dan­gers all those on board and any­one on the ground. The po­lice now have greater pow­ers and any­one caught could face five years in jail.

“This leg­is­la­tion re­moves the need for po­lice of­fi­cers to es­tab­lish proof of in­ten­tion to en­dan­ger so peo­ple will find it much harder to hide be­hind the claim they ‘did it by ac­ci­dent.’

“If you have bought a laser for your kids or have one that you don’t re­ally need, we sug­gest you take the bat­ter­ies out and throw it away.

“It’s not worth you, or some­one close to you, get­ting a crim­i­nal record for the sake of what is mis­tak­enly be­lieved to be a toy.”

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