Laser law planned to protect planes

Airlines have lodged more than 600 complaints so far this year about malicious use of lasers near airports

6 September 2010

A NEW law governing the user of laser devices is being discussed in parliament this week, after hundreds of complaints that they are being used to distract airline pilots.

According to Paris UMP senator Catherine Dumas, airlines in France have lodged more than 600 complaints with police so far this year about attempts to shine lasers at plane cockpits.

Most of the cases have been during take-off or landing at Paris Charles de Gaulle and Orly airports. Similar complaints have been lodged at Toulouse and Marseille.

An amendment to a security law being discussed in the Senate this week would make it an offence to buy, hold or use any laser device stronger than Class 2 (the level considered harmless to humans) without prior permission.

Offenders would face up to six months in prison and a €7,500 fine. The law would also make it illegal for shops and websites to sell strong laser products to individuals.

Ms Dumas said the malicious use of lasers around airports was putting passengers' safety at risk. Motorists and police officers had also been targeted by people shining lasers at them.

"Although there are rules in France governing the sale of lasers to businesses, they can be freely obtained by individuals online," she said.

"These websites promise buyers that their details will remain confidential. They even promote the fact that lasers can be used to light a cigarette or start a bin fire from a distance."

She said Switzerland, Canada and the UK had already taken action, but the current laws in France were not sufficient.

Last week, a 20-year-old man was handed a six-month suspended prison sentence for targeting plane cockpits at Orly with a €7 laser he bought while on holiday in Thailand.

Another man in Carcassonne was arrested for a similar offence and held for a few hours. His laser was confiscated and he was released without charge.

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