1. ITV Report

Police in North West report record numbers of laser-pen crime

Police report record number of laser-pen related crime Credit: PA

Police in the North West are being forced to respond to thousands of laser pen incidents resulting in calls for them to be classed as offensive weapons.

Since 2014 there have been 1039 police reports involving laser pens in Greater Manchester including shining them into aeroplane cockpits, at oncoming traffic and into people's front rooms.

Cheshire Police released figures of 284 laser-related incidents, meaning the actual number in the region is unknown as Merseyside and Lancashire constabularies' figures have not yet been released.

In response, a pilot's union has warned the consequences could soon be disastrous and called for a change in the legislation to class them as offensive weapons.

Freedom of information requests by the Press Association revealed Greater Manchester Police had dealt with 1,039 incidents since 2014, with 156 of them involving aircraft.

Stephen Landells, flight safety expert at the British Airline Pilots Association (Balpa), warned of the possible consequences for single-pilot aircraft and helicopters as the power of lasers available to the public continues to increase.

What we're seeing now is the increase in power of lasers and the build quality is getting better.

This means the divergence is getting better so you end up with a pinpoint light and can dazzle pilots from a greater distance and higher height.

I went and bought a laser and worked out you could basically blind someone from nearly a kilometre away and there's absolutely no use for this except as a weapon.

Any single-pilot operation, be it helicopter or light aircraft, if you take away the pilots vision at night the consequences could be disastrous.

The other concern I have is if you have very powerful lasers with a wide beam you could conceivably have a wide enough beam to affect both pilots.

– Stephen Landells

Mr Landells said the law needed to change so people had to have a good reason to be carrying a laser, which would allow the police to act when they had reasonable suspicion of misuse.

If the police get a report that aircraft are being lasered going into Heathrow and they find someone standing there with a laser in their pocket, there is nothing they can do at the moment because lasers don't come under the offensive weapon legislation.

The law says you can't carry a knife without good reason - a carpet fitter going into a building in the afternoon has a reason to carry a knife. But someone walking down the street at 11pm outside a pub doesn't.

And we want lasers to come under that same legislation so the police can say we have reasonable suspicion and they can be arrested.

– Stephen Landells