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 …

  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. Ledswinger Silver badge

    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.

      3. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: OK-ish

        "If you insert a sharp object into a person (and you are not a surgeon), there is a significant likelihood that they will die."

        Having cut out my own stiches out of my fingers with a scalpel, I can assure you it was very unlikely I would die from that wound.

  5. mark l 2 Silver badge

    I agree with other posters comments, they could announce a life sentence for shining a laser at an aircraft. But unless they have some Hollywood CSI way of tracing the beam back to the exact point of origin, how are they going to arrest and prosecute for it unless plod happen to catch the criminal in the act?

    1. Ben Bonsall

      The thing about lasers is they go straight, well, refraction diffraction etc aside.

      This makes it quite easy to trace them back to the origin, indeed, that's the basis of laser guided missiles after all... So location and punishment in one device is certainly possible.

      1. Dodgy Geezer Silver badge

        ...just change the law to include anyone stabnding within 50 ft of the laser wielder as equally culpable, and you won't even have an issue with collateral damage.

        That's the way the US Air Force operates in the Middle East....

    2. Dodgy Geezer Silver badge

      Modern cameras and gps systems could to provide an automatic note of the point on the grouns a beam came from instantly, at very low cost. This could be a fitting for all aircraft similar to the reversing camera on a car.

      Then all you need is a surveillance camera feed for that area at that time. Which you can get frequently. Problem solved...

      1. Tigra 07 Silver badge

        RE: Dodgy Geezer

        "Modern cameras and gps systems could to provide an automatic note of the point on the grouns a beam came from instantly, at very low cost."

        Fit planes with a powerful laser pointer instead and have it blind the personidiot using the laser pointer instead.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: RE: Dodgy Geezer

          "Fit planes with a powerful laser pointer instead and have it blind the idiot using the laser pointer instead."

          So..... hands up who here has heard of the Geneva convention?

          1. Arthur the cat Silver badge

            Re: RE: Dodgy Geezer

            "Fit planes with a powerful laser pointer instead and have it blind the idiot using the laser pointer instead."

            So..... hands up who here has heard of the Geneva convention?

            They(*) only apply to warfare, not civil enforcement. You can't blind an enemy squaddie on a battlefield but what you do to your own people outside a battlefield is up to you.

            (*) There are several treaties and protocols that get lumped together under the name.

          2. Tigra 07 Silver badge
            Pint

            Re: AC

            "So..... hands up who here has heard of the Geneva convention?"

            If we withdraw from the Geneva Convention then we can retalliate against these laser louts with Cluster Bombs and White Phosphorus!

          3. This post has been deleted by its author

          4. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: RE: Dodgy Geezer

            Geneva convention only applies to the bad guys, ie non-Western.

            :/

          5. Adrian 4 Silver badge

            Re: RE: Dodgy Geezer

            Fit corner reflectors around the cockpit.

    3. Ledswinger Silver badge

      But unless they have some Hollywood CSI way of tracing the beam back to the exact point of origin, how are they going to arrest and prosecute for it unless plod happen to catch the criminal in the act?

      It would be fairly straightforward to create and fit systems to detect and instantaneously pinpoint the source of a laser using a range of technologies largely developed for military use (such technologies already exist to target laser designators used for weapons aiming).

      The problem is that in the case of an airliner on approach just gives you (say) a GPS position with perhaps 30m accuracy at ground level. In a war situation you just hit it with a missile or bomb, but the UK government would get queasy at the prospect of launching a Brimstone missile into the shit end of Hounslow, no matter how much some people might think that a good idea. And any police response will be far too slow to get to the crime scene, which other than for a few idiots won't be their own back yard. By the time the police get there all they'll find is an empty alleyway, or a pavement full of people that may or may not include the perpetrator. Even if they find an idiot close to the scene with a high power laser pointer, how can they prove that the laser-carrier did the deed?

      1. Arthur the cat Silver badge

        the UK government would get queasy at the prospect of launching a Brimstone missile into the shit end of Hounslow

        The government today announced a new urban renewal programme …

    4. khinch

      The chances of police being able to respond to reports and then catch them in the act are slim, but if the airports are really serious then it could be done.

      Plenty of CCTV cameras and a small on-site security team would be able to catch some evidence, pinpoint the location and then respond much quicker than local plods. They might not win every time, but based on the number of reported incidents in the article they'd only need to succeed once every few incidents to catch the ones responsible. I also suspect that many of the incidents are perpetrated by the same people, who probably also display habitual behaviour such as the times and places they show up, making it easier to predict which locations they are likely to get reports from.

      This is just one example and I'm sure with enough thought this can be done, but the question is whether they have the budget and resource to implement anything meaningful.

    5. Lord Elpuss Silver badge

      Fire a high powered laser back along the beam, and use it to tattoo a unique ID on the forehead of the scrote with the laser pointer. Then use the ANPR camera network to track him down.

    6. werdsmith Silver badge

      But unless they have some Hollywood CSI way of tracing the beam back to the exact point of origin, how are they going to arrest and prosecute

      Not Hollywood, just a simple night vision camera.

      https://youtu.be/3k4C8grAGP4

    7. bombastic bob Silver badge
      Devil

      "some Hollywood CSI way of tracing the beam back to the exact point of origin"

      maybe a 'beam detector' to get the general area? calculate within 100 feet [let's say] of where the perp is, then do some regular police work.

  6. Christoph Silver badge

    I think the idea is that there is a low chance of catching any particular one, but when they do manage it (which does happen occasionally) they will come down on them like a ton of bricks and make sure that the massive sentence gets wide publicity pour encourager les autres.

  7. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Intent is always important

    Pedantry alert! Stop reading if you don't like philosophy!

    It's impossible to understand many ordinary verbs, like transitive "shine", without some concept of "intent" by the subject of the verb. Transitive "shine" means cause to (intransitive) "shine", and "cause" means ... well, that's a question that philosophers have been discussing since Socrates and earlier, but everyone knows that, although a butterfly flapping its wings will have fundamentally changed the course of human history, that's not what ordinary people, or even lawyers, mean by "cause".

    I assume what the new law means is that "I was only doing it as a prank; I didn't mean any harm" is no longer a valid defence. However, "I didn't know that thing had a laser attached to it" or "I thought the switch was for the porch light", might still be valid. And perhaps even "I was not aware, and had know way of knowing, that there was an aircraft operating in that area". Who knows? Perhaps even the lawyers don't yet know. But one way or another, "intent" will always be relevant, because the semantics of the language in which laws are expressed, and discussed, relies on it.

    1. Cuddles Silver badge

      Re: Intent is always important

      "And perhaps even "I was not aware, and had know way of knowing, that there was an aircraft operating in that area". Who knows? Perhaps even the lawyers don't yet know."

      The lawyers probably do know because, contrary to the article's claim, intent is still explicitly included in the law:

      "(2)It is a defence to show—

      (a)that the person had a reasonable excuse for shining or directing the laser beam towards the vehicle, or

      (b)that the person—

      (i)did not intend to shine or direct the laser beam towards the vehicle, and

      (ii)exercised all due diligence and took all reasonable precautions to avoid doing so."

      As far as I can tell, your assumption of how the law is supposed to work is exactly what it actually says - if you deliberately shine a laser at a vehicle you had better have had a damn good reason for doing so; if it was an accident, you simply need to show that it was a reasonable mistake to have made. So if you had no way to know an aircraft was there you probably wouldn't be guilty, but if you were careless in shining a laser without bothering to check if anything was there you probably would.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Intent is always important

        I live between Gatwick and Heathrow airport and have pointed out stars and another time let the kids point at clouds with cheap lasers. Fun times had and memories made. Would probably do it again even with this law change.

        On a clear night you can see everything in the sky but when it's cloudy, you can only aircraft so there is a chance you could briefly hit a plane by accident. The way the kids wave the lasers about the chances are slim and any contact would be for a fraction of a second.

        Saying that, it's still worrying that the police could turn up and turn the kids fun in to a bad memory even when no harm is done.

        You expect these laws to only target those who are actually targeting aircraft on purpose but the reality is the police will nick anyone for anything depending on their mood and the months stats.

        P.S: Range Rover height lights and xenon lights do my head in too. One pulled up behind me the other night and lit the whole car up so bright I thought I was being abucted by aliens.

      2. Chozo
        Big Brother

        Re: Intent is always important

        Kudos for reading the manual :)

        Question:

        is the legislation specific to lasers & aircraft OR any camera being nobbled with a suitably bright light source? Speed traps, inner city surveillance, police body cams etc can be overly sensitive to Infra Red leds

        1. Cuddles Silver badge

          Re: Intent is always important

          "is the legislation specific to lasers & aircraft OR any camera being nobbled with a suitably bright light source?"

          It's specific to lasers, but applies to any vehicle* as well as air traffic control. It only applies if it dazzles or distracts, or is likely to, a person in control of said vehicles. So shining a non-laser light at anything is fine, and shining a laser at anything that isn't a person in control of a vehicle is also fine, although only if it's far enough away that it couldn't be considered likely to impact such a person - trying to blind a police officer's body camera with a laser while they have traffic behind them could easily fall foul of the law even though shining it at the police isn't an offence at all.

          * Including submarines, just in case you have a really big laser.

  8. JimmyPage Silver badge
    Boffin

    Light, or "laser"

    CBA to read the statute, but the article seems to suggest there's confusion between *laser* light, and "light".

    Is there a chance a pilot can be blinded by non-laser light, and teh miscreant goes free as it wasn't "laser" light ?

  9. Justice
    Paris Hilton

    I'm confused... like Paris...

    How does a ground-based laser pointer shine into the cockpit of a moving plane?

    The angle and accuracy required to carry out such a task would be incredible... and unlikely.

    I'm starting to think that this is in place because it fecks up expensive night vision cameras on Police helicopters rather being an actual danger.

    Maybe I'm missing something, can someone enlighten me on this one?

    1. ChrisC

      Re: I'm confused... like Paris...

      Depends how high/fast the aircraft is, and what their path is relative to your position. Also remember that the human eye only requires an incredibly short exposure to laser light to be affected temporarily or permanently, so even just randomly waving a laser pointer around the sky will, sooner or later, bag you a strike on a cockpit window, and even if it only lasts a fraction of a second it's enough.

      And whilst pilot dazzle gets the big headlines here, let's not forget that the law also applies to idiots who think it's "just a bit of a laff, innit" to shine lasers at people in control of other types of vehicle as well - we just tend not to hear so much about the problems of car/bus/HGV/train etc. drivers being targetted by laser-wielding pondlife in the same way as when it happens to aircrew, but make no mistake, it does happen...

    2. Lord Elpuss Silver badge

      Re: I'm confused... like Paris...

      Remember it doesn’t have to hit the pilot’s eyes directly to be a danger. Hitting the cockpit windscreen at an oblique angle would cause enough incidental reflections to drastically reduce visibility - even if the pilot wasn’t injured, they would struggle to maintain effective night vision. Depending on the phase of the landing process, this could be anywhere from mildly to extremely dangerous.

      Besides, there’s no legitimate reason to shine a laser at or near an aircraft. So banning it makes total sense in my book - even if the chance of an actual accident is low.

  10. werdsmith Silver badge

    How does a ground-based laser pointer shine into the cockpit of a moving plane?

    It doesn't really, a handheld laser can briefly illuminate the cockpit glass of an airliner and all the micro-scratches on that glass cause the beam light to scatter and this blocks vision through the glass or for that brief moments that the beam passes over. Pilots will see repeated flashes of green or whatever light. If the source is down the glideslope which is 3 degrees to the touchdown point of the runway, it would be a real pain and the pilots would have to go to instrument until they passed it.

    It's more of a problem for helicopters, especially ones that are involved in low speed manouvres, like hover or landing and have all round vision. Light aircraft that use perspex are terrible for scratches.

  11. GnuTzu Bronze badge

    Does This Mean Cyclists Are Protected As Well?

    The article read "drivers of road vehicles" rather than motor vehicles. And, what about off-roaders? This warrants some clarification. Law abiding cyclists deserve this protection as well. No comment on other kinds of cyclists.

    1. Cuddles Silver badge

      Re: Does This Mean Cyclists Are Protected As Well?

      "The article read "drivers of road vehicles" rather than motor vehicles. And, what about off-roaders? This warrants some clarification."

      The law covers all vehicles, including cyclists (law abiding or otherwise). The only specific mention of motor vehicles is that they're considered to be ready to move if their engine is running, even if they're not actually ready to move.

  12. Aodhhan Bronze badge

    Negligence outweighs intent

    Without a doubt, whether you intend to or not, using a laser can result in eye damage and loss of life. Therefore, the individual with the laser must be held responsible during its use.

    A hunter may intend on shooting elk or some other game animal, but if the bullet goes through the animal (or misses) and the bullet continues to travel and hits a dairy cow or a person... the hunter is held responsible.

    Intent provides the level of prosecution and penalty, but it DOES NOT absolve responsibility, nor does it diminish negligence.

    Risk can be considered into the law as a preventative measure. For instance, it can become illegal to use laser pointers outdoors for any reason, within 3 miles of an airport without permit.

  13. Crisp Silver badge
    Boffin

    Why not simply fit all aircraft with shielding

    A cockpit window filter screening out all wave lengths between 400 and 600 nm should do the trick...

    1. Androgynous Cupboard Silver badge

      Re: Why not simply fit all aircraft with shielding

      An excellent idea, with just one downside: by screening out wavelengths used mainly by visible light, the pilots would be unable to see anything. This needs to be weighed up against the fact that there are some lovely curtain fabrics available.

      1. Crisp Silver badge

        Re: Why not simply fit all aircraft with shielding

        Jokes are always much funnier when they are explained.

        1. Androgynous Cupboard Silver badge

          Re: Why not simply fit all aircraft with shielding

          Too subtle by half, Mr. Crisp

  14. Tom 7 Silver badge

    So lazers bad

    railguns good?

  15. Dwarf Silver badge

    Speed cameras

    They user lasers don't they -- are they now illegal too ??

  16. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    "It can reach up 1 kilometer"

    "hey , this one says it can reach up to two kilometers."

    "Put it down and come along, we haven't got all day."

    "Have you got $2.00" ?

    Kids in a local market 2$ store.

    {sigh} !

    1. Mooseman Bronze badge

      Re: "It can reach up 1 kilometer"

      I used to work for a company doing concert lighting, indoor and outdoor displays - we did Blackpool illuminations one year, science and tech awards on the SS great Britain another. One of our regular gigs was university summer balls, one of which was held outdoors in Kent. We were happily shining the then top spec 20w lasers around (3 phase, water cooled, bloody heavy) until we got a (not very) polite phone call from the CAA asking us to kindly turn them off, as pilots on the Heathrow approach were seeing these green beams across their flightpath, a distance of around 50 miles.

  17. Cynicalmark

    UK copper chopper

    According to those chaps they have equipment that locks on to any laser using their cameras and pinpoints not only the address but also notes the fingerprint of the laser pointer. Apparently they have successfully used this in prior prosecutions. One of the chaps in Coventry was writing some software for this over a decade ago and gave me a sneak peek.

    1. Norman Nescio Bronze badge

      Re: UK copper chopper

      I would be interested to understand how laser pointers are 'fingerprinted'. My first thoughts would be to look at the emission spectrum other than the actual laser emission*, as that might give a view into the relative abundance of the different working materials and impurities in the laser medium (and any IR-filters used), which would certainly vary by batch if not individual diode, the tough bit being that the non-laser emission spectrum will be 'considerably' dimmer than the laser emission line. If the laser is pulsed, then the mark/space absolute and relative durations could well be unique to particular pointers, as well as the rise time to full output of the 'mark' cycle.

      Looking at the actual laser output, it is 'monochromatic', but actually has a non-zero linewidth, so if it is possible to do detailed spectroscopy of the beam, you might be able to find some other identifying characteristics - I would suspect inhomogenous broadening might be a key. Technology ruggedised sufficiently to do this in a flying police helicopter could be interesting engineering.

      * Some laser pointer spectra are here: Kerry D. Wong: The Spectrums of Three Cheap Laser Pointers

  18. scrubber

    Light Amplification by Stimulated Emission of Radiation

    There are only a couple of wavelengths of these things. It is surely not beyond the realm of possibility to have an extra layer of material, or tint of the glass, that absorbed these frequencies then we could avoid the loss of life without going overboard with sentencing?

    Also, what about that bastard 93 million miles away that keeps trying to blind everyone, they even went after the President of the US during the last eclipse.

  19. Libertarian Voice

    It is about time that they developed a portable one that can quickly take out speed cameras.

POST COMMENT House rules

Not a member of The Register? Create a new account here.

  • Enter your comment

  • Add an icon

Anonymous cowards cannot choose their icon

Biting the hand that feeds IT © 1998–2019