New penalties for those directing lasers at vehicles

Posted 10/07/2018 : By: Tim Ridyard

That anyone would engage in the highly dangerous pursuit of directing beams towards vehicles (or planes, trains or boats) is beyond comprehension. Why would anyone endanger lives in this way?

The worrying trend involving this type of activity has prompted new legislation: the Laser Misuse (Vehicles) Act 2018, in force from 10 July 2018. This introduces significant penalties for laser misuse.

Shining / directing laser beams towards vehicles

An unlimited fine and a maximum term of 5 years’ imprisonment (Crown Court) or 6 months’ imprisonment (Magistrates Court) is now in force. (NB the maximum term for this and other offences imposed by the Magistrates Court will increase to 12 months in due course.)

How is the offence proved? An offence is committed where a person shines or directs a laser beam towards a vehicle that is moving or it is ready to move and the beam dazzles or distracts a person in control of the vehicle or it is likely to dazzle or distract. (A vehicle is treated as ‘ready to move’ if the engine or motor is running.)

NB the definition of vehicles includes not only cars, vans, lorries, coaches and buses but any vehicle used for travel by land, air or sea.

There is a ‘reasonable excuse’ defence where the person shining or directing the light did not intend to shine or direct it towards the vehicle and they exercised all due diligence and took all reasonable precautions to avoid doing so. If this defence is raised with sufficient evidence to support it then it will be for the prosecution to disprove it beyond reasonable doubt.

It is also an offence to shine or direct beams towards air traffic services e.g. air traffic control or anyone monitoring the control of aircraft.

It remains to be seen how this new legislation will deter and punish those who engage in this type of adverse conduct that could have devastating consequences not only for those in charge of vehicles but also their passengers.

For more information about this topic, please get in touch with Tim Ridyard or Tim Norris of our Road Transport team.

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