Shining lasers at planes in the UK could now get you up to 5 years in jail

Freshly passed law means intent is no longer important

The ban on shining lasers at cars and aeroplanes has been strengthened with a five-year prison sentence now available for those who train their laser pointers on ships, aircraft or air traffic control towers.

"Under the new law, it is a crime to shine or direct a laser beam that dazzles or distracts, or is likely to dazzle or distract, air traffic controllers, pilots, captains of boats and drivers of road vehicles," said a UK government statement as the Laser Misuse (Vehicles) Act gained Royal Assent.

The Act builds on previous laws which made this illegal but did not include the need for prosecutors to prove that the person shining the laser intended to endanger a vehicle. It also lengthens the available prison sentence to five years or an unlimited fine. Existing legislation allowed for a maximum fine of £2,500 and potential prosecution for reckless endangerment, which carries potential prison time.

Under the updated law, a defence is available for those who took "all reasonable precautions" to stop their light beams from catching drivers, pilots, ships' captains or air traffic controllers in the eye.

The problem of laser misuse stretches back to the introduction of cheap, readily available laser pointers in the UK. Though regulations did exist, limiting the power levels available for sale to the general public, these were (and are) virtually unenforced.

Naughty folk had an unfortunate tendency to point these lasers at passing or distant items (clouds, aircraft, cliffs, air traffic control towers, etc) with no thought for the effects on people at the receiving end. Relatively high-powered lasers are easily capable of causing permanent damage to eyesight.

"In 2017, UK airports reported 989 laser incidents to the Civil Aviation Authority. The most affected airport was Heathrow with 107 incidents, followed by Gatwick (70), Manchester (63) and Birmingham (59)," said the government's statement on the successful passing of the Act.

Brian Strutton, general secretary of the British Airline Pilots' Association (BALPA) trade union, added: "Shining a laser at an aircraft is extremely dangerous and has the potential to cause a crash that could be fatal to not only those on board, but people on the ground too."

BALPA has led the charge for stricter laws on laser abuse for many years. ®

Similar topics

Broader topics

Other stories you might like

  • Stolen university credentials up for sale by Russian crooks, FBI warns
    Forget dark-web souks, thousands of these are already being traded on public bazaars

    Russian crooks are selling network credentials and virtual private network access for a "multitude" of US universities and colleges on criminal marketplaces, according to the FBI.

    According to a warning issued on Thursday, these stolen credentials sell for thousands of dollars on both dark web and public internet forums, and could lead to subsequent cyberattacks against individual employees or the schools themselves.

    "The exposure of usernames and passwords can lead to brute force credential stuffing computer network attacks, whereby attackers attempt logins across various internet sites or exploit them for subsequent cyber attacks as criminal actors take advantage of users recycling the same credentials across multiple accounts, internet sites, and services," the Feds' alert [PDF] said.

    Continue reading
  • Big Tech loves talking up privacy – while trying to kill privacy legislation
    Study claims Amazon, Apple, Google, Meta, Microsoft work to derail data rules

    Amazon, Apple, Google, Meta, and Microsoft often support privacy in public statements, but behind the scenes they've been working through some common organizations to weaken or kill privacy legislation in US states.

    That's according to a report this week from news non-profit The Markup, which said the corporations hire lobbyists from the same few groups and law firms to defang or drown state privacy bills.

    The report examined 31 states when state legislatures were considering privacy legislation and identified 445 lobbyists and lobbying firms working on behalf of Amazon, Apple, Google, Meta, and Microsoft, along with industry groups like TechNet and the State Privacy and Security Coalition.

    Continue reading
  • SEC probes Musk for not properly disclosing Twitter stake
    Meanwhile, social network's board rejects resignation of one its directors

    America's financial watchdog is investigating whether Elon Musk adequately disclosed his purchase of Twitter shares last month, just as his bid to take over the social media company hangs in the balance. 

    A letter [PDF] from the SEC addressed to the tech billionaire said he "[did] not appear" to have filed the proper form detailing his 9.2 percent stake in Twitter "required 10 days from the date of acquisition," and asked him to provide more information. Musk's shares made him one of Twitter's largest shareholders. The letter is dated April 4, and was shared this week by the regulator.

    Musk quickly moved to try and buy the whole company outright in a deal initially worth over $44 billion. Musk sold a chunk of his shares in Tesla worth $8.4 billion and bagged another $7.14 billion from investors to help finance the $21 billion he promised to put forward for the deal. The remaining $25.5 billion bill was secured via debt financing by Morgan Stanley, Bank of America, Barclays, and others. But the takeover is not going smoothly.

    Continue reading

Biting the hand that feeds IT © 1998–2022