Government to consider laser pen licence after attack rise – BBC News

Image copyright Thinkstock

Buying powerful laser pens could require a licence in future, the government has said, amid concerns over the number of attacks on aircraft.

Ministers say they could also bring in new measures to license retailers and restrict advertising after warnings about the risks to pilots and planes.

The government said it wanted to find “the best way to protect the public”.

Last year, 1,258 incidents of lasers being shone at aircraft were recorded by the UK’s Civil Aviation Authority.

This week, Spanish police said a British man and his son had pointed a laser at an airliner over the Costa del Sol.

Earlier this year, the government said it would introduce a new law meaning people who deliberately shone lasers at aircraft could face larger fines or even a jail sentence.

However, the proposal was dropped from the government’s legislative programme after June’s general election.

The Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy has now launched an eight-week consultation on the issue.

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption A laser beam over Lyon, France: Many pilots have complained of laser interference at night

Business Minister Margot James said: “Public safety is of the utmost importance and we must look carefully to make sure regulations are keeping up with the increased use of these devices.

She added: “Used irresponsibly or maliciously, these products can and do wreak havoc and harm others, with potentially catastrophic consequences.

“That’s why we want to hear from business groups, retailers and consumers about the best way to protect the public from this kind of dangerous behaviour and improve safety.”

Licensing schemes already exist in countries such as Australia, Canada and the US.

In the UK, shining lasers at aircraft can incur a fine of up to 2,500.

Spanish pilots ‘dazzled’

Brian Strutton, general secretary of the British Airline Pilots Association, said shining lasers into the eyes of a pilot at a critical stage of a flight “has the potential to cause a crash and loss of life”.

“There is also a growing concern that, as the power of available lasers increases, the possibility of permanent damage being caused to pilots’ and passengers’ eyes increases,” he added.

Three pilots reported being dazzled during the incident in Spain.

If found guilty, the two British holidaymakers could face a fine ranging from 30,001 (27,280; $35,425) to 600,000 for endangering flight safety.

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