Police will soon have expanded powers to charge people who use laser pointers in a manner that may harm someone.
Changes announced by Police Minister John Kobelke will see laser pointers classed as controlled weapons and people required to demonstrate a lawful reason for possession.
The new regulations follow a growing number of instances in which laser pointers have been used to distract pilots of planes and helicopters in Western Australian skies.
“These lasers, when used at night, flood the cockpit with light and can even temporarily blind the pilots, placing the pilots, any passengers and everyone on the ground in the area at risk,” Mr Kobelke said.
“These are extremely dangerous actions and the new regulations will provide police with improved powers to prosecute offenders.”
People who carry or possess a controlled weapon without a lawful excuse, or use it to potentially injure or disable another person, face a $4,000 fine or 12 months’ imprisonment.
Some of the existing controlled weapons are knives, crossbows, spear guns, imitation firearms and swords.
Expected to be in force by May, the new classification of lasers will apply to any situation, not only the use of a laser emitting device against aircraft, but also at sporting events, road traffic or everyday situations.
“If people have a genuine reason for being in possession of a laser and are using it for that purpose, the new regulations will not affect them,” the Minister said.
Mr Kobelke said one especially concerning example of unlawful use of a laser involved the Royal Flying Doctor plane which was struck with a laser while trying to land with a patient on board.
“The Police helicopter Polair and RAC Rescue 1 helicopter have reported numerous laser strikes, let alone the incidents involving commercial and private aircraft,” he said.
Additionally, people who direct lasers at aircraft will continue to face prosecution under Commonwealth legislation for threatening the safety of an aircraft. WA police have investigated a number of people in relation to such offences in the Greater Perth area and have referred them to Federal police.
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