The proposed offence: Shining a laser at any transport operator.
Laser pointers are portable hand held devices, generally used by professional trainers as presentational aids and it is not illegal to purchase a laser pointer. However, if a person points a laser at an aircraft and causes the aircraft to become endangered, it is a criminal offence. If you have been charged with this offence contact Emery Johnson Astills, who can assist you. According to Transport Secretary, Chris Grayling, “Shining a laser pointer at pilots or drivers is incredibly dangerous and could have fatal consequences” such as temporary blindness.
The first misuse of a laser on an aircraft was reported in 2004, with more than 200 incidents annually by 2008. This figure has increased. According to the Civil Aviation Authority, four pilots a day on average report having laser pens shone in their cockpits, when either taking off or landing at UK airports.
The current law
It is an offence to shine a light at an aircraft so as to dazzle or distract the pilot. In relation to the aircraft, it must be proved that the aircraft was endangered, which limits the offences reach. Those convicted of this offence face a fine of up to £2,500 under the Air Aviation Order. Offenders may also face prosecution for reckless endangerment which carries a prison sentence. At Emery Johnson Astills we can assist you with this.
The proposed law
The proposed law will aim to widen the current offence so that it applies to ‘any transport operator’ that will include train drivers and motorists. This is said to reflect a more common sense approach and will be published in the Vehicle Technology and Aviation Bill in the next few months.
A flight safety specialist at the British Airline Pilots Association has welcomed the proposed legislation as it shows the Governments concern to the threat of flight and transport safety.
A specific incident
In February 2016, a flight from Heathrow to New York was affected after a laser was shone into the cockpit and hit the pilot in the eye. The plane had to be immediately returned to Heathrow because of this incident.
If you need advice regarding any of the issues discussed within this article, please contact the Criminal Law Team at Emery Johnson Astills on 0116 255 4855.