This House of Lords Library Briefing has been prepared in advance of the second reading in the House of Lords of the Laser Misuse (Vehicles) Bill [HL] on 9 January 2018.Jump to full report >>
The Laser Misuse (Vehicles) Bill [HL] was introduced in the House of Lords on 19 December 2017, and is scheduled to have its second reading on 9 January 2018. The Bill would introduce an offence of shining or directing a laser beam towards a vehicle which dazzles or distracts, or is likely to dazzle or distract the person with control of the vehicle. The offence would be a strict liability offence, and the Bill would provide persons accused of the offence with a defence that either they had a reasonable excuse for shining the laser beam towards a vehicle, or that they did not intend to shine a laser at a vehicle and exercised all due diligence to avoid doing so. The Bill would extend to England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland.
Figures for 2016, show that the Civil Aviation Authority received reports of 1,258 incidents in which a laser was shone at an aircraft in the UK. Concerns have also been raised about laser attacks on other forms of transport and the ability of some stronger lasers to cause eye injuries. The Government had initially included provisions relating to the new offence in the Vehicle Technology and Aviation Bill in the 2016–17 session, although the Bill fell after committee stage when a general election was called in April 2017.
Current legislation makes it an offence to direct or shine any light at any aircraft in flight so as to dazzle or distract the pilot of the aircraft. Anyone found guilty of this offence could be liable to a fine, up to a maximum of £2,500. If intent to endanger an aircraft can be proved, a suspect can be tried under the Aviation and Safety Act 1982 for offences against the safety of aircraft, including damaging or endangering the safety of aircraft, which carries a maximum penalty of five years’ imprisonment. The Laser Misuse (Vehicles) Bill seeks to extend the offence to other vehicles, such as trains, trams and ships, remove the cap on the amount offenders can be fined, and make it easier to prosecute offenders by removing the need to prove an intention to endanger a vehicle.
In August 2017, the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy issued a call for evidence on the laser market, and potential uses for laser pointers. The Government outlined potential options under consideration, including licensing of laser pointers, restrictions on advertising and awareness raising. The consultation closed on 6 October 2017; the Department is due to respond formally in 2018.
Lords Library notes LLN-2017-0103
Author: Heather Evennett