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Bulldogs five-eighth Matt Burton was allegedly targeted by a teenage fan with a laser pointer whilst trying to make a conversion, during the team’s 36-32 win over the South Sydney Rabbitohs.

The incident occurred in only the ninth minute of the game, following the first try of winger, Blake Wilson.

Vision showed Burton’s face cast in the bright green light of a laser, as he made the run up to kick the ball. He promptly notified the referee, and following the light subsiding, made the conversion from the sideline.

The referee, Liam Kennedy, notified the Accor Stadium ground manager who attempted to locate the perpetrator.

Shortly after this, it was reported that a 16-year-old kid was removed by stadium security. He was found posing for a picture with South’s mascot ‘Reggie the Rabbit’.

Police have noted that they are investigating the incident and considering what punishment may be imposed for the teen, such as a ban from the stadium.

The sudden light puzzled commentators of the game, with Andrew Voss questioning: “a laser on the face. We can do without that. We are all here for a bit longer and I hope he kicks it.”

After Burton successfully made the kick, he commented: “Burton from the sideline and yes. Stick the laser up you know where.”

Laser pointers are handheld, battery-operated devices which are designed to emit a laser beam.

They may be used for aiming, targeting, or pointing.

In New South Wales, it is an offence to possess or use a laser pointer in a public place without a reasonable excuse, as per section 11FA of the Summary Offences Act 1988 (NSW).

The maximum penalty applicable is a $5,500 fine and/or 2 years imprisonment.

A reasonable excuse will include where you have custody of or use the laser pointer for the lawful pursuit of your occupation, education, training, or hobby, in all the circumstances.

It will also include where the custody of the laser pointer is during travel to or from that occupation, education, training, or hobby, or it is incidental to this.

Therefore, whether a reasonable excuse exists will be determined on a case-by-case basis, with the accused person required to prove to the court that the excuse exists.

Examples may include if you are an amateur astronomer who uses it for astronomy or a teacher or lecturer that uses it for teaching (i.e., pointing to items or words on a large board or presentation).

However, it is also notable that legislation currently restricts the type of laser pointers that may be owned.

A permit is required to be obtained to own a laser pointer which exceeds one milliwatt.

Without a permit, laser pointers exceeding one milliwatt are considered ‘prohibited weapons’ under schedule 1 of the Weapons Prohibition Act 1998 (NSW).

It is an offence to possess or use a prohibited weapon unless the person is authorised to do so by a permit, with a maximum penalty of 14 years imprisonment applicable.

Furthermore, due to the classification of laser pointers as ‘dangerous implements’ police are able to stop, search, and detain a person, if they suspect on reasonable grounds that the person has a laser pointer in a public place that is being or was used in or in connection with the commission of a relevant offence.

They are also permitted to seize and detain the laser pointer, in this circumstance, as outlined in section 21 of the Law Enforcement (Powers and Responsibilities) Act 2002 (NSW).

Applications for a permit may be made to the NSW Police Firearms Registry.

However, permits are not granted automatically, and there must be a genuine reason for the use of such a laser pointer.

Genuine reasons include demonstrating that the permit would be for scientific, recreational, sporting, film/television, or theatrical reasons.

If granted a permit, a person will be required to possess and use the prohibited weapon purely for the purpose established by them as being the genuine reason for possessing or using the weapon, or else the maximum penalty of 14 years imprisonment remains applicable.

The only exemption that applies to a need for a permit is if you use the pointer for activities associated with astronomy, and you are a member of an approved astronomical association.

Published on 28/07/2023

AUTHOR Poppy Morandin

Poppy Morandin is the managing law clerk and an integral part of the team of criminal lawyers at Criminal Defence Lawyers Australia . She's also a part of CDLA's content article production team. Poppy is passionate about law reform and criminal justice.

View all posts by Poppy Morandin