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Aviation chief Andrew Haines urges laser pens crackdown

By Neil Lancefield

People found carrying powerful laser pointers should be arrested even if they are not using them, the head of the UK's aviation regulator has said.

Andrew Haines, chief executive of the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA), claimed new legislation was needed to cut the number of laser attacks on aircraft.

He said the issue was harder to solve than near-misses with drones because lasers are "a deliberate attempt to cause harm".

Mr Haines expressed frustration at the difficulty in prosecuting people under the current law because of its requirement to "find the person undertaking the task and... demonstrate intent".

There is a lesser offence on the books of shining a light at an aircraft, but the CAA boss called for the law to be toughened.

He said: "We are very keen that the Government introduces legislation which means that the possession of these high-powered lasers would be an offence.

"Why does Joe Bloggs need a laser that can pop a balloon at 50 miles (and) that can cause permanent damage to a pilot?"

According to CAA figures, there were 1,439 - four a day - laser attacks in the UK last year.

Heathrow airport was the most common location with 121 incidents, followed by Birmingham and Manchester airports.

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