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NZ pilots welcome custodial sentence for laser strike

1 DECEMBER 2017

The New Zealand Air Line Pilots’ Association (NZALPA) today applauded the record prison sentence of five months handed down by a British court to a man who pointed a laser at a police helicopter.

This is twice the time of the custodial sentence handed down late last year to a Christchurch man who endangered passenger aircraft with a high-powered laser pointer.

Christchurch police were alerted to another alleged laser incident involving an aircraft in October.  

NZALPA maintains that aircraft approaching and departing New Zealand airports continue to experience laser attacks, on average, every month. 

In the British case, the Leicester Crown Court heard that the man shone the laser several times, dazzling the pilot and forcing him to abandon the firearms linked mission.  The judge referred to the seriousness of the act and how it could have resulted in the death of all three officers on board. 

“Lasers are not toys and pilots and air traffic controllers have been very concerned that it would only be a matter of time before a serious accident would result from such dangerous and irresponsible use, NZALPA President and airline pilot Tim Robinson said. 

“We continue to press at all levels for laser attacks to be taken seriously – raising their status as an offence equivalent to such acts as high jacking and bomb threats, collectively known as ‘Acts of illegal interference’.

“I’ve talked with pilots who have experienced similar laser strikes when trying to land a plane, often with many passengers and crew on board.  They describe the confusion, temporary blindness and the resulting headaches as one of the most terrifying thing they’ve ever gone through,” said Mr Robinson.  

In New Zealand perpetrators can be prosecuted under the Summary Offences (possession of high-power laser pointers), Crimes Act 1961 (endangering transport) and the Civil Aviation Act 1990.

Under the Summary Offences Act sentences can include up to three months in prison or a fine of up to $2,000.

Under the most punitive of the three acts, the Crimes Act, a perpetrator could face up to 14 years in jail. 

ENDS. 

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