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

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 …

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  1. Sheepykins

    I'm often subjected to blinking, distracting or otherwise offensive lights been shone into my eyes whilst driving.

    But those cyclists have to get about in the dark somehow.

    1. Fursty Ferret

      *sigh*

      You do realise that the novelty of bashing on cyclists wore off about five years ago, don’t you? Even Jeremy Clarkson rides a bike now and has stopped going on about it in his columns.

      I have a lot of sympathy for someone who feels so vulnerable (and rightly so given the number of drivers on phones, texting, fiddling with sat navs, driving tired, on drugs, drunk, lazy, and basically incompetent for the job) that they feel they have to use bright lights to avoid being killed.

      In general when I see a bright light I neither drive into it nor pull out in front, which is the whole reason for them. I’m trying to work out why you’d be bothered by this more than badly adjusted car headlights, motorbikes on high beam 24/7, or sitting behind someone with high intensity LED brake lights.

      I can only assume that you represent the stereotypical view of an IT employee with implied weight and fitness issues. One might suggest that you try riding a bike along a section of your commute and see if you still think that bright lights are the primary safety issues to users of the road.

      1. Sheepykins

        Aww... Diddums...

        Have you had a bad cycling experience? Do you need to talk about it? You do realise it was a joke don't you?

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Toooooo bright!

        I get more than a little annoyed with cyclists using flashing, ultra-bright lights pointed straight ahead. It's my understanding (and someone will doubtless correct me if I'm wrong), that front vehicle or cycle lights should be a STEADY white light (except for direction indicators, of course) and not the pulsing (and possibly technically illegal) monstrosities that leave an after-glow in one's eyes, should anyone be unfortunate enough to accidentally look directly at them.

        1. Alan Brown Silver badge

          Re: Toooooo bright!

          "I get more than a little annoyed with cyclists using flashing, ultra-bright lights pointed straight ahead."

          Firstly, there are actually legal limits on the brightness of cycle lights and secondly there are also laws that say they must be pointed at the road, not into the sky or eyes of oncoming traffic.

          Neither of these are actually enforced, just like laser laws, but a couple of blitzes might start making the lycra louts pay attention.

          Twats using retina-burning lights fitted to their heads(*) on unlit country lanes make it impossible to see where the road is and on a twisting road are a particular hazard around here. If you're on a twisty section of road it's completely disorienting even at 20mph.

          (*) They seem to specialise in using 50W MR16 household lights with 30 or 60 degree flood patterns, not something designed to light up the road ahead, and of course being headmounted means they're swivelling all over the place.

      3. Allan George Dyer Silver badge

        @Fursty Ferret: Wait, Jeremy Clarkson is still a thing?

    2. Whitter
      Unhappy

      Overly bright vehicle lights

      Super-bright strobes on bikes and super-bright xenons or LEDs on cars all add up to a nightmare of dazzle on the roads these days (whether I'm on two wheels or four). An indication of "Its better for me - sod you" culture, or "nothing to see here: its just driven by availability"?

      1. Dodgy Geezer Silver badge

        Re: Overly bright vehicle lights

        Haven't we got rid of all the cyclists yet?

        They are using a deeply unsafe Victorian mode of transport which ought to be banned from the roads, and limited to recreational and sports areas. Just like horses.

        If they keep on operating a conveyance where the first thing to be contacted in a collision is their body, they will continue to die in accidents which are otherwise survivable if they were to use proper protection.

        1. Tigra 07 Silver badge
          Coat

          Re: Dodgy Geezer

          "Haven't we got rid of all the cyclists yet?"

          Haven't we got rid of all the cars yet?

          They're dangerous to people on the road, destroy the environment, roads, create traffic chaos, deadly levels of pollution, and are often spotted speeding, running red lights, driving dangerously, driving on the pavements, etc

          They're used in terror attacks a lot these days so when is Theresa May going to ban them?

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: Dodgy Geezer

            I've no problem with ordinary cyclists who are using their bike as a mode of transport but I do despise idiots in lycra who treat the road as their personal velodrome and think cycling is a time trial with complete disregard for other road users.

            I live in a part of the country that attracts these types like flies around carrion and summer is a nightmare with these lycra lout tourists, piss off and go to the gym instead.

            1. Tigra 07 Silver badge
              Thumb Down

              Re: AC

              "I've no problem with ordinary cyclists who are using their bike as a mode of transport but I do despise idiots in lycra who treat the road as their personal velodrome and think cycling is a time trial with complete disregard for other road users"

              Have you tried cycling against the wind? Lycra may not be attractive on everyone, but it makes it much easier to cycle. Would you like to be stuck behind a fast moving cyclist, or a slow moving one? I suspect you will complain either way.

              1. Anonymous Coward
                Anonymous Coward

                Re: AC

                Have you tried cycling against the wind? Lycra may not be attractive on everyone, but it makes it much easier to cycle. Would you like to be stuck behind a fast moving cyclist, or a slow moving one? I suspect you will complain either way.

                Many times I've cycled against the wind and when it's raining but I didn't need sunglasses or Lycra on those occasions. I'd rather be stuck behind a slow cyclist with road sense than a fast one riding like an idiot, they are actually easier to pass.

            2. Anonymous Coward
              Anonymous Coward

              Re: Dodgy Geezer

              @AC - p/o and go to the gym.

              Your realise that's part of the "Its better for me - sod you" attitude Whitter was referring to earlier?

              Or do you think it only applies to other people ;)

              1. Anonymous Coward
                Anonymous Coward

                Re: Dodgy Geezer

                @AC - p/o and go to the gym.

                Your realise that's part of the "Its better for me - sod you" attitude Whitter was referring to earlier?

                Or do you think it only applies to other people ;)

                Well judging by the accident statistics, you are not going to get your head squished by an artic in a gym or be deeply inhaling toxic exhaust fumes at many breaths per second so it's healthier to exercise elsewhere away from those risks. There are old disused railway lines in my area that have been dedicated as cycle leisure routes, a much safer alternative wouldn't you say, however I suppose that doesn't cut it with the perceived macho image of Lycra and sunglasses ?

                I don't think the lycra lout tourists would like it if we turned up mob handed up in their area with Massey Fergusons and silage units in tow for a bit of furious tractor riding.

        2. David Nash Silver badge
          Facepalm

          Re: Overly bright vehicle lights

          "Haven't we got rid of all the cyclists yet?"

          yeah...and as for those downright reckless "pedestrians" daring to go out exposed...exposed I tell you!!!

      2. S4qFBxkFFg
        Joke

        Re: Overly bright vehicle lights

        Agreed - I say we just ban all vehicle/street lights and make all road users (drivers/cyclists/pedestrians/horses/dogs...) wear night vision goggles.

        (I know I marked this as a joke - but would it actually be any more expensive, long-term?)

        1. Martin-73 Silver badge

          Re: Overly bright vehicle lights

          banning streetlights I am 100% behind, especially the new LED bastards that output light at precisely the right wavelength to f*** up your night's sleep.

          Lasers... notsomuch. (Unless a blinded pilot crashes their plane into your bedroom)

          1. Alan Brown Silver badge

            Re: Overly bright STREET lights (shining in bedrooms)

            "banning streetlights I am 100% behind, "

            If you live in Scotland then the environment act's nuisance lighting section allows you to complain about streetlights which shine in your window. (They added "or fixed installation" to the definition)

            If you live in NI, England ot Wales, then streetlighting "falls between the cracks" of nuisance definition (the law says "emitted from a premises" and the argument is that "streetlights are not premises" (unless mounted on the side of buildings), so councils don't have to comply.

            On the other hand I've also been told that this argument wouldn't stand up in court, especially as the environment agency wrote documents stating "the government expects" that councils will not position lighting so it won't be a nuisance.

            I've quizzed the environment agency about this and the jobsworths are very good about fobbing off, despite these official documents.

            Milton Keynes council took it as far as stating there was a £100 charge per complaint about nuisance streetlighting (for a nuisance they had caused!) until it got pointed out that was tantamount to extortion and could result in legal action. The wording came off their website the following day (but is still in their PDFs)

            If the "rest of UK" law was changed to match Scotland, then councils would be scrambling to comply. As it is, the usual response is "fuck you" until they get a lawyer letter - at which point they do something. It's pretty clear they don't want a precedent to be set in civil court despite the claims about streetlights not being covered by the statutory nuisance act.

          2. Jamie Jones Silver badge
            Coat

            Re: Overly bright vehicle lights

            You shouldn't really be sleeping whilst driving anyway!

      3. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Overly bright vehicle lights

        On average, the brightness of cycle lights is about right. Unfortunately, to achieve that average brightness, we have some numpties cycling on road with front lights designed for off-road riding at night, and a different set of numpties with no lights, wearing black clothes and having even removed the reflectors from their bikes.

        I commute by bike, by the way, and find other cyclists general lack of consideration to other road users to be somewhat irritating.

    3. Sorry that handle is already taken. Silver badge
      FAIL

      Having a bad day? Why the need to turn this into a rant about something completely unrelated?

    4. Tigra 07 Silver badge
      Childcatcher

      RE: Sheepykins

      Try being a cyclist and dazzled by about 50% of cars on the other side of the road with super bright/xenon lights and an idiot trying to squeeze past without enough space, beeping constantly because you can't use the cycle lane as idiots are parked in it.

      It's not all sunshine and roses on this side.

    5. disco_stu

      A lot of the overbright bike lights are designed for off road use and really aren't suitable for use with traffic as they chuck out light in all directions and not focusing the light where it needs to be..

      I cycle into work pretty much all year round, it's along a canal towpath.

      In the winter when commuting in the dark it has the added danger of being dazzled by oncoming bike lights, the combination of an unlit towpath with a superbright ( sometimes strobing ) lights is very disorientating.

    6. Richard 81

      Cyclists having bright lights is fine. Cyclists having bright flashing lights is not OK. In particular it's not OK when in unlit areas and you're sharing the space with pedestrians, thanks.

      1. werdsmith Silver badge

        Lycra second only Audi cars as a primary bellend marker.

        I have a bike, a battered old sit up and beg raleigh thing from decades ago. I ride it wearing jeans and sometimes an overcoat and it is a delightful feeling to overtake one of these embarassing Pinarello mounted lycra pratts as they puff along the road while I am on the purpose made cyclepath alongside.

        1. Martin-73 Silver badge
          Pint

          @werdsmith

          Have a pint of whatever you desire. You're so on the nail. The lycra clad bellends are the boi racers and/or audi drivers of the cycling world.

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Some motorists don't notice constant lights in a well lit area, so flashing ones may save lives.

        1. Alan Brown Silver badge

          "flashing ones may save lives."

          There are 2 kinds of flashing cycle lights:

          The ones which are on and "ping" in brightness slightly.

          These are pretty good at getting attention whilst still being able to see the cyclist's position and track their speed.

          And the ones which "flash" once a second - these are bloody awful for seeing where a cyclist actually is and how fast they're moving in anything except the best well-lit conditions where you can see them via other methods. I don't usually encounter the latter in such conditions.

    7. bombastic bob Silver badge
      Flame

      "those cyclists have to get about in the dark somehow."

      I never have trouble with bicycle nor motorcycle headlights. Its SUVs and large pickup trucks with "one beam aimed too high" (because the owner is too ignorant/lazy to fix it) that seem to be the BIGGEST problem. That will blind me faster than anything else, especially in fog. That, and when you have a vehicle that's taller than most of the others, you need to be responsible to get your headlights aimed correctly (or learn to do it yourself, and check it occasionally).

      Maybe you Londoners have a similar problem [it gets pretty foggy around here at certain times of the year, evenings and/or mornings, and sometimes overnight].

      You can see who these people are when you look at a bunch of cars on the road during fog and occasionally one of them has a giant white cloud-cone pointing at an up angle in front of the car's headlights. It's just way too common.

    8. leexgx

      i have stopped some cyclists as i could not see past them (1 billion candle light on there bike) flashing is totally illegal as well

      one time i was going up the hill and i thought it was another car but it was 1 light coming down the hill + once i got past them there was 5-6 other bikers behind them that i could not see even though they had normal bike lights until i had past the first biker

      any bike light that uses a HID LEDs (like the ones that have external battery pack) it should be Flat beam or a fined for having it on the bike (some of them doesn't even matter if its pointed at the ground) most of them have 2-3 power level settings

      its gotten to the point now where i going to call the police next time it happens as a lot of them are doing it on purpose i was trying to tell a old person and she was refusing to point it at the ground (its bad enough that some cars have illegal HID headlights or point up at the sky)

  2. Anonymous South African Coward Silver badge

    It is a good step into the right direction, BUT how do you catch the buggers shining lasers?

    Enforcement and catching the ne'er-do-wells are the two biggest problems with this issue.

    1. Sorry that handle is already taken. Silver badge

      In Australia we send up a police helicopter. Anyone who's stupid enough to lase airliners is usually stupid enough to have a crack at the chopper.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Justice delayed is...

      "Enforcement and catching the ne'er-do-wells are the two biggest problems with this issue."

      Very true.

      See e.g. this article for a 2016 trial (under previous legislation) involving offences committed in 2013 and 2014.

      http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-wales-north-west-wales-37387770

      "A man who repeatedly shone a powerful light at RAF jets flying over his house has been jailed for 18 months.

      John Arthur Jones, 66, of Bodffordd, Anglesey, was convicted of causing dangerous distractions to Hawk jet pilots on night training flights during his trial in June (2016).

      Mold Crown Court heard he had a grievance against the RAF and, at one stage, considered legal action.

      The former councillor had denied 13 charges of endangering aircraft.

      Jones, who was also a council housing director, shone the lights at jets flying from RAF Mona, Anglesey, between November 2013 and September 2014. (article continues)"

      Other coverage of the case elsewhere records that a previous trial of the same case had to be abandoned because an undercover policeman who would have been a prosecution witness was personally known to two members of the jury ????

      https://www.dailypost.co.uk/news/north-wales-news/jury-discharged-case-anglesey-man-10487187

      (adblock very strongly recommended, as with any Trinity Mirror website in recent years)

      1. Martin-73 Silver badge

        Re: Justice delayed is...

        When it comes to the military doing night training flights, I think the fact THEY are the nuisance should shift the burden of proof relative to civilian flights. The buggers have NO respect for anyone

    3. Velv Silver badge
      Mushroom

      Paveway LGB

      1. Scroticus Canis Silver badge
        Terminator

        Paveway LGB

        I was thinking more along the lines of a 20mm Phalanx but a Paveway also works :)

        1. Killfalcon Bronze badge

          Re: Paveway LGB

          "You don't have to be a ne'er-do-well to be an idiot, plenty of wealthy ones around too."

          Huh. I'd always assumed 'ne'er-do-well' meant 'folk who habitually did bad things', rather than being an economic state.

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: Paveway LGB

            yes, as In Never does good (well)

    4. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      >Enforcement and catching the ne'er-do-wells

      You don't have to be a ne'er-do-well to be an idiot, plenty of wealthy ones around too.

  3. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Net effect, nil

    Since the ne'er do wells responsible can already face jail, all this does is make the job of securing a conviction easier. With UK jail capacity all but fully utilised, there's not much prospect of filling the jails, but even then, what's the detection rate? I'm guessing low single digits.

    1. Mark 85 Silver badge

      Re: Net effect, nil

      Every government does this. Pass laws that realistically can't be enforced But, those who pass the law get to wave their arms and shout "There, we did something!!!!". and presumably get re-elected.

  4. Will Godfrey Silver badge
    Meh

    OK-ish

    But I'm concerned about the proliferation of laws that don't require any intent.

    1. Whitter

      Re: OK-ish

      As I read it, it does still require intent to (potentially) dazzle, just not the intent to cause a crash. So a much lower level of wilful harm can be prosecuted. Any lawyers in the house to check on that? As others have said, the law is one thing; finding the culprit is quite another.

    2. Lee D Silver badge

      Re: OK-ish

      Manslaughter doesn't require intent.

      Death by careless driving doesn't require intent.

      Failure to comply with a lot of statutory regulation doesn't require intent.

      Speeding offences don't require intent.

      Lots of very, very old laws don't require intent.

      The words you want to see are "neglect", "carelessness", etc. I may not intend to defraud the taxman but proving that is another matter entirely, however it would be neglectful to be in charge of a multi-billion dollar company and not check the local tax law, for example.. You can't just let people off scot-free because you can't prove intent. What you prove is ignorance of the law (no defence!), blatant disregard for it (not bothering to check whether you were doing something illegal), or something so incredibly stupid that it was obviously illegal anyway. Intent normally only changes one type of crime into another (e.g. manslaughter to murder, etc.).

      Having to prove "intent" on a laser shone at a plane for a few seconds from a distant house is literally impossible unless you get a YouTube vid of that exact incident with them saying "we're going to blind a pilot". People will just hide behind "Well, I was just waving it about, or dropped it, and it must have pointed upwards for a nanosecond" as their defence.

      As it is, it's hard enough to find them and prosecute them. Having to prove that they set out to blind pilots rather than just did something incredibly stupid like bought a high-powered laser and pointed it into the sky near an airport is an obstacle you really don't want.

      Plus... sorry... intent is really not necessary to form many crimes at all. You may not have intended to forget all about the firewall that's supposed to protect your user's credit card usage data for a porn site that's splatted all over the front page of the newspapers now... but that's not a defence if you were legally required to have one. You may not have intended for your car to be unroadworthy and kill a small child - still a crime. You may not have intended to not service your tenant's gas boiler which then blew up the entire street - still a crime.

      Intention determines the direction of your neglect of the law - a particular act explicitly considered for a particular deliberate purpose. It does not determine the fault, magnitude or culpability, or whether the act is just illegal to do entirely, intentional or not.

      "Sorry, your honour, I didn't intend to steal $4.5 billion from the bank I work at, I just fat-fingered my own account number and it popped into my bank account."

      "Oh, that's alright then, you keep it."

      1. bombastic bob Silver badge
        Devil

        Re: OK-ish

        "does not require intent"

        in the USA there are a lot of laws regarding negligence, rather than intent, to determine whether a law was broken. Manslaughter, as you mentioned, is one of them. If you kill someone while driving drunk, you probably didn't intend to do that, but still Manslaughter. So iron bar hotel for you. But if you DID intend on it, it's "Murder II". If you planned to do it, it's "Murder I". IANAL but that's my understanding of it.

        If someone is stupid enough, whether knowing or not, to shine bright lights (particularly lasers) at aircraft, that person DESERVES some iron bar hotel time.

        there have always been stupid pranks involving vehicles, by idiots that are stupid enough to actually do it. I bet deliberately spooking a horse had a penalty associated with it also, at one time...

        On a related note, the military COULD develop special 'night vision' for pilots that would mitigate this, in case enemy soldiers try to use "that trick" to down an aircraft.

      2. Alan Brown Silver badge

        Re: OK-ish

        "Having to prove "intent" on a laser shone at a plane for a few seconds from a distant house is literally impossible unless you get a YouTube vid of that exact incident with them saying "we're going to blind a pilot". "

        The _only_ way you can fix an aircraft of any kind (even a helicoptor) with a laser is to be deliberately aiming at it _and tracking it_. The kind mounted on telescopes are pointing in one direction, so an aircraft will fly through the beam in less than a second and if a helicoptor flies near such a beam the pilot can see and avoid it, it certainly won't be tracking the bird.

        Even when aiming _in the general direction_ of an aircraft, hand trembling moves the beam around enough for the "contact" to be fleeting unless the pointer is deliberately compensating for movement, bearing in mind that the aircraft is usually more than a couple of miles away.

        Lasing drivers is even more dangerous than lasing aircraft and happens more often. There's not much that pilots or train drivers can actually fly or drive into if momentarily blinded, whilst roads are narrow and the instinctive reaction of a car or lorry driver struck in the face by a laser is to swerve.

        One set of twats around here were lasing houses and tried to lase the drivers of police cars sent out to deal with them.

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: OK-ish

      > But I'm concerned about the proliferation of laws that don't require any intent.

      Somebody stabs someone with a knife, and later they die. Today they get away with manslaughter rather than murder, because their lawyer argues they didn't "intend" the victim to die.

      However if an action has likely consequences that a reasonable person could expect or foresee, then surely that amounts to the same thing as intent.

      If you insert a sharp object into a person (and you are not a surgeon), there is a significant likelihood that they will die. Ergo, if you knife someone, you are doing so in the expectation that their death is a likely outcome of your actions, whether or not you wish them to die.

      Similarly, if you shine a high powered laser in someone's face while they are in control of a vehicle, any reasonable person will tell you there is a high likelihood of an accident. And therefore an accident is an expected outcome of your actions. If you didn't intend the accident, you shouldn't have shone the laser in the first place.

      The question is, does this amount to criminalising stupidity? Or the other way round: is stupidity a legitimate defence against actions which cause severe harm?

      1. Lee D Silver badge

        Re: OK-ish

        Please criminalise stupidity.

        I will gladly pay the extra tax for all the jails required to do so.

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: OK-ish

        The important part of the definition of murder in English law is "malice aforethought", not intention to kill. As a defence, you would have to argue, for example, that you stuck the knife into them as a joke, and you mistakenly thought they'd enjoy the joke. Quite a hard case to make. You'd have a better chance arguing that you thought they wanted to die. That defence has, on a few occasions, worked: if there's no malice then the intentional killing can only be manslaughter.

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