Police charge Australian man over laser incident

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Laser pointers, such as the one above, are claimed to be dangerous to pilots.
Image: Paulnasca.

A 19-year-old man from the Sydney, Australia suburb of Bella Vista has been charged with interfering with a crew member while in an aircraft after a laser stunned the crew of a police helicopter last night.

The helicopter was flying at about 6pm at an altitude of about 1600 feet, when a green laser allegedly targeted the crew. The crew members were "momentarily distracted and disoriented by the incident", according to a New South Wales Police press release, but were uninjured and managed to identify a yard from which the light originated. The officers landed the helicopter nearby, and contacted local police who arrested the teen and confiscated a laser device. He was taken to Castle Hill police station, where he was interviewed and charged, before being released on bail. He is scheduled to face Hornsby Local Court on June 22.

New South Wales Police Minister David Campbell expressed his disdain for the incident, which is similar to a number of recent occasions where laser pointers have targeted commercial pilots. "I just can't believe the stupidity of those people who want to shine lasers in the eyes of pilots and drivers," he said. "It is gutless and cowardly and could result in the most dire of consequences."

Last night, New South Wales State Parliament passed new laws restricting the use and possession of laser pointers, with all laser pointers banned from public places where the user does not have a reasonable explanation for needing one, and class three and four laser pointers requiring a prohibited weapons permit from the firearms registry to possess. The maximum penalty for breaking this law will be 14 years' jail. The laws will not come into effect for about 10 days, so the Bella Vista teen will only be charged under existing laws.