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UK laser-strike laws toughen under new bill

UK legislators are publishing a new bill intended to simplify prosecution of people who threaten aircraft safety by directing laser beams at cockpits.

The 'Laser Misuse' bill – which carries a five-year imprisonment term and unlimited fines – covers similar attacks on other vehicles. It also grants law enforcement authorities extra powers.

Crucially the bill removes the need to prove intent to endanger an aircraft, a difficult burden which can slow prosecution of offenders.

"It will be an offence to shine or direct a laser towards a vehicle if it dazzles or distracts the operator, if done deliberately or if reasonable precautions to avoid doing so are not taken," says UK aviation minister Liz Sugg.

She says the bill, published on 20 December, shows the government is "determined to protect pilots, captains, drivers and their passengers".

The government says the Civil Aviation Authority received reports of 1,258 laser-strike incidents last year, primarily from the vicinity of London Heathrow.

UK cockpit union BALPA has campaigned for tougher legislation to address the matter. General secretary Brian Strutton says the measures are "very welcome" and that the union will work with the Department for Transport to ensure the new laws are "effective" and "implemented quickly".

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