Page last updated at 12:08 GMT, Thursday, 6 August 2009 13:08 UK

Laser owners 'arrested on sight'

The beam from a laser- generic
Anyone found carrying a laser can be arrested on sight

There has been a marked rise in the number of UK pilots reporting incidents of laser torches being shone at their aircraft.

In 2007 there were 29 incidents but this rose to 206 cases in 2008, the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) said.

Sgt Andy Watson of Thames Valley Police said such devices "could potentially kill hundreds of people by causing a crash".

Police said anyone found with a laser torch could be arrested on sight.

The warning comes after pilots and air traffic controllers submitted their annual Mandatory Occurrence Reports to the CAA.

More than 75% of planes targeted were commercial airliners.

If you are found with a laser device, you can even be arrested for simply carrying it
Sgt Andy Watson

The worst affected areas were regional airports with 15 in Cardiff, 12 in Manchester, nine in Liverpool, nine in Birmingham and seven in Edinburgh.

The CAA said seven incidents had been reported in Oxfordshire which did not have a large commercial airport, although it was on a busy air traffic route and many private planes used Oxford Airport, Kidlington.

Capt Robert Jones, head of flight operations at the CAA, said: "These things are not toys, they pose a serious risk to all flight safety."

Light refraction

Police said the sale of industrial lasers was restricted in the UK but many were available to buy on the internet ranging in price from £20 to £300.

Mr Jones said the beam from a class three laser could be seen up to 20 miles away.

If the beam is shone into the cockpit it can refract on the thousands of surface scratches on the aircraft's windscreen, making the whole windscreen temporarily light up and blinding the pilot, he added.

Thames Valley Police said it was working in partnership with other regional police forces, the CAA and other government departments to track down the perpetrators of the attacks.

Sgt Watson, of Thames Valley Police Operational Support, said: "I'd like to issue a warning to all would-be laser users - we have the technology and tactics to catch people who do this.

"If you are found with a laser device, you can even be arrested for simply carrying it if the questioning officer is not satisfied with your reasons for having one."

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