By Sahar Adatia and Jimmy Singh.
When a police helicopter is fervently flying around trying to track pursuits or search for a wanted suspect, the bright shine of a laser pointer is the last thing a pilot wants to see.
It might sound inconsequential, but even a small, battery-run laser pointer can be capable of causing significant damage.
Indeed, when you point a laser at an aircraft, the little laser pointer has the capacity to blind and disorient a pilot.
Then, the windows of an aircraft cockpit can magnify that laser light and seriously harm those on board.
Combined, this can cause a serious risk to that aircraft.
This was the very lesson learnt by one Perth man who allegedly shone a laser light at a police helicopter.
Officers were forced to swoop on the man’s Huntingdale residence and arrest him.
Police Raid Residence as Helicopter Detects Man with Laser Light
Perth Now reports that in the early hours of 24 January 2020, a police helicopter was being flown over the Perth suburb of Huntingdale when at about 12:50am it was struck by a laser light.
Cabin crew were able to pinpoint a home on Clune Court and immediately reported the event.
Canning Vale Police were deployed to the area while the helicopter crew directed them to the residence.
Once arriving at the home, they raided the property to discover the laser light concealed under a mattress.
The item was subsequently seized.
A 28-year-old man was arrested and taken to Canning Vale Police Station.
Western Australia Police Give Stern Message of “Dangerous and Reckless Act” of Pointing Laser Lights at Aircrafts
Following the man’s arrest, Western Australia Police addressed the incident, offering an unsympathetic message of the extreme dangers of pointing a laser light at any aircraft.
“Laser lights can significantly impact on a pilot’s vision, and places the pilot and any other crew and passengers on board in immediate danger,” the spokesperson said.
“Not only is it a dangerous and reckless act, it is a serious criminal offence and those responsible for such acts will be arrested and charged.
“In this particular incident police on the ground were quickly deployed to the location where the laser light was coming from, and the arrest was made without further incident.”
Pointing laser lights at aircraft and even other vehicles is an offence.
Unfortunately, laser lights are a popular and cheap toy to obtain that are also easily available for purchase on the internet.
When Are You Allowed to Use A Laser Pointer in NSW?
Laser pointers are hand held devices that are operated by batteries and designed or adapted to emit a laser beam generally used for the purpose of aiming, targeting or pointing.
As the NSW Police Force advises, the problem of laser pointers is that in recent times, some members of the public have acted irresponsibly by directing the laser beam into the cockpits of aircraft and even at motor vehicles.
This is extremely dangerous because a laser bean can easily blind pilots and drivers.
More worryingly, with the ability to blind, they also have the ability to cause loss of control, which in turn can lead to the potential loss of life.
To deter such behaviour, the Government has enforced that it an offence for anyone to have a laser pointer in their custody in a public place or to use a laser pointer in a public place without a reasonable excuse.
Accordingly, if a police officer has reasonable grounds to suspect that you are in possession of a laser pointer in a public place, they can search you, confiscate your laser and take legal action.
Nevertheless, it is understood that people use laser pointers for legitimate purposes and for some people it is a requirement to carry laser pointers on them.
Teachers and builders who use laser pointers in their jobs provide such examples.
Other people who may need to carry lasers include those who pursue hobbies such as astronomy.
Ultimately, if you have a reasonable excuse for carrying a laser and use the laser responsibly, there should not be a problem.
Have a question? Speak to one of our leading Sydney based criminal lawyers today to arrange a consult.
Law on Using or Having Custody of a Laser Pointer in a Public Place in NSW
A laser pointer, in any circumstance, can pose a serious risk if used recklessly.
As such, unless you have a reasonable excuse, it is an offence to be in custody of one or use one in a public place.
In NSW, the offence of being in custody or use of a laser pointer in a public place is outlined in section 11FA of the Summary Offences Act 1988.
The offence carries a maximum penalty of a fine of $5,500, or imprisonment for 2 years, or both.
Section 11FA states that a person must not, without reasonable excuse (proof of which lies on the person) have in his or her custody a laser pointer in a public place, or use a laser pointer in a public place.
A reasonable excuse includes:
- To have custody of, or use, a laser pointer if the custody or use is reasonably necessary in all the circumstances for the lawful pursuit of the person’s occupation, education, training or hobby, or
- To have custody of a laser pointer if the person has custody during travel to or from or incidental to that occupation, education, training or hobby.
A “laser pointer” is defined as a hand-held battery-operated device, designed or adapted to emit a laser beam, that may be used for the purposes of aiming, targeting or pointing.