Stop the ‘laserwielding idiots’
THOSE CAUGHT TARGETING PLANES CAN FACE FIVE YEARS IN JAIL
“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.”