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New: Laser Laws (UK) - 20th December 2017

CurtisOliver

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For anyone in the UK, especially new members. This guide can be important for those who are not in the UK too, but the laws are only based on British legislation. The government has imposed new laws regarding the use of lasers that put simply protect anything that needs driver/pilot attention. Even hovercraft's are included. Happily rather than just banning laser pointers altogether they have decided to make the penalties tougher on those who misuse them.

A basic breakdown of UK laws at present (20th December 2017)

It is illegal to target:
  • Planes
  • Trains
  • Buses
  • Trams
  • Boats
  • Hovercraft
  • General Vehicles (Cars, Vans and Lorries etc) - although not directly mentioned. But can be inferred by the following statements.
    The government is determined to protect pilots, captains, drivers and their passengers and take action against those who threaten their safety.
    intention [to] endanger [...] a vehicle, aircraft or vessel

Also very important to note. There is now no longer a requirement to prove your intention.

The bill will make it easier to prosecute offenders by removing the need to prove an intention to endanger a vehicle.
Alongside their existing powers of arrest and the ability to search a person once arrested, officers will no longer need to establish proof of intention endanger to a vehicle, aircraft or vessel, making it easier to prosecute swiftly. It will be an offence to shine or direct a laser towards a vehicle if it dazzles or distracts the operator, if done deliberately or if reasonable precautions to avoid doing so are not taken.
This means that even if your action was accidental, you can still get cautioned for not providing reasonable precautions to avoid exposure.

As for general ownership, as far as it seems. It hasn't been modified.
Laser pointers are classified as anything Class 2 (<1mW) and can be used for their intended function.
Anything over 1mW has the status of 'not recommended'
[...]it is recommended that a laser pointer should be no greater than a Class 2 laser product.
So not illegal to own a >1mW portable but should not be used as a pointer. There is a slight gap in the criteria allowing <5mW to be used for general pointing based on this statement.
Devices intended for use by consumers should not be Class 3B or Class 4 laser products.
Whilst Class 3R is mentioned, it isn't referenced on whether or not they can be used as pointers. So the cut of can be safely assumed as >5mW (Class 3B).

As for purchase nationally and internationally of Class 3B and 4 lasers.

There is no law in place restricting purchase or import of >5mW lasers as of yet. But the restriction of >5mW's is a bit of a grey area in the UK. It is advised in retail not to sell >5mW's lasers including products that incorporate them to the general public.

PHE [(Public Health England)] advises that the sale of laser products to the general public for use as laser pointers should be restricted to Class 1 or Class 2 devices which should be classified in accordance with the requirements of the current British Standard
The key word being 'advises'. But there are powers available to restrict them through the General Product Safety Regulations 2005 legislation, which allows standards organisations to remove Class 3B's and 4's from the national market and could also affect international imports.

Trading Standards Authorities may use their existing powers under the General Product Safety Regulations 2005 to remove laser products intended for consumers of Class 3B and Class 4 (as defined in the British Standard) from the general market. However, it is recognised that consumers also purchase products direct via the Internet and while on overseas holidays, which is difficult to control.
The 'difficult to control' is quite significant as it shows that they are trying to eradicate some of the imports into the UK. So despite it not technically being illegal through direct laws, the General Product Safety Regulations 2005 legislation can make certain products 'illegal' through being 'unsafe' for the general consumer. As laser pointers are not labelled as components, then it they have to classed as a consumer product meaning they have to comply with whatever regulations are in force.

Now onto to ownership and use.

There again is no law on the ownership and use of portable or mains powered Class 3B and 4's. But there is general statement for each of the two classes.

Class 3B lasers are not suitable for general use by consumers.
Ideally this would imply that there suitability isn't for hobbyist use.

Class 4 lasers are not suitable for use by consumers.
This implies that Class 4's are not suitable for any applications for a general consumer except for businesses and institutions.

But suitability isn't law or legislation, so should only be taken as guidance.

Now a important one, outdoor use.

This unfortunately doesn't have a clear black and white answer. The ownership and use advice applies the same but with a couple more complications. Whilst currently the bid to make lasers classified as offensive weapons has failed, some police officers can still arrest and/or confiscate the device under their discretion if they believe it is justified. This obviously is based heavily on your actions. If you are caught doing anything stupid with the laser then you can easily find yourself laserless. If you are caught pointing even <5mW lasers at humans, animals or any of those vehicles listed above then you could be in a lot of trouble. If you are using lasers to simply just annoy the public then you also face problems through 'Breach of the peace'.

My general advice is not to go carrying your pointer/portables around with you outdoors and start pointing them around the street or sky. If you have to transport a portable from one location to another, then remove the batteries and place them in a separate location. This lessens the 'intent to misuse' judgement. Remember, under the new law accidental exposure to a vehicle whether ground, air or sea based just isn't an excuse anymore. If you start wildly waving a >5mW around the sky, then you are not in proper control. Therefore you have not made 'reasonable precautions to avoid' unnecessary exposure.

So what are the new penalties for misuse of laser devices?

  1. Up to 5 years imprisonment
  2. Unlimited fine - used to be capped at £2500.

Fines could be issued in isolation or alongside a prison sentence.
So thinking about buying a laser to commit any of these offences? Simple answer. Don't

Sources:
https://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2017/dec/20/laser-pen-offenders-now-face-five-years-and-unlimited-fines
https://www.gov.uk/government/news/tough-new-penalties-for-misuse-of-lasers
https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/laser-radiation-safety-advice/laser-radiation-safety-advice
 



NarwhalZ

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Great post!
Seen an article about this topic this morning. If you have a garden then at least you can put it to good use. Make sure you know where you laser is aiming at before switching it on. If you are a sensible user then you wouldn't aim it at people/animals/vehicles even before these new laws were in place. These new laws are great and will help to keep illegal laser activity to a minimum. :)
 

CurtisOliver

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Thanks. Hopefully these new laws will help ease the problem. I just worry about the time where our lasers will be banned through this sort of stupidity.
 

BobMc

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Good read Curtis, glad they didn't outlaw them all together. But it does make things a little more dicey. Be safe! :)
 

RB astro

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Thanks. Hopefully these new laws will help ease the problem. I just worry about the time where our lasers will be banned through this sort of stupidity.
Yep, like they've done here in Oz.
The land of the great big 1mW laser.... :cryyy:

RB
 

paul1598419

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I can't figure out why the first reaction to a problem is to pass laws increasing the penalties. It is the knee jerk reaction of every legislature in the free world to respond this way. They increased the penalties for cocaine base by ten fold during the Reagan administration, but now see it is all the same drug and causing people to do ten times the incarceration length did nothing but cause hardship on minorities. I believe intent is a necessary part of motive and should be a mitigating aspect. If I am taking beams shots that in no way comes close to a driver, but they claim it distracted them to the point that it caused an accident, it mitigates their actions but causes me no defense. I can see this law being abused in such a way.
 

GSS

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Alot of severe incarceration time was also caused by the cocaine overdose death of the Boston Celtic's drafty Len Bias. People or gang members getting 10 or 20 years for even a tiny amount of marijuana..How could you not get out of jail alot more bitter to what it did to your family??
Time will tell if the scare of more severe conditions of the law will bring down reported laser strike's..Thinking though what Paul said, the abuse of power from the law.
 
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NarwhalZ

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I guess its all down to luck and which officer you run into. If an officer saw you shining a laser somewhere causing no harm at all, some may just tell you to be cautious when using it but some may be anti-laser and abuse their power based on their opinion of lasers. Imagine a bad neighbor who doesn't like you too much. They could easily phone the police saying a laser nearly hit them in the eye whilst they were in a car and from what i'm reading, there doesn't seem to be any defense on your side if you're found with the laser after this situation. You can say bye to the laser and expect a hefty fine at least if the officer isn't happy with lasers. Yes my story may be a bit extreme about a bad neighbor as most neighbors are nice but it is a possibility something like this could happen. It could even be another person walking down a street who hates lasers and who's opinion means removing lasers full stop. The main part i'm worried about is "you can still get cautioned for not providing reasonable precautions to avoid exposure." as this seems like a grey area.

All I am trying to say is, It seems pretty opinion based.
 
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Alaskan

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I understand about some people who don't like lasers at all, I was shining one into the night sky and a guy down the street started screaming to turn it off, wasn't pointing it low or into his direction at all.
 

paul1598419

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Alot of severe incarceration time was also caused by the cocaine overdose death of the Boston Celtic's drafty Len Bias. People or gang members getting 10 or 20 years for even a tiny amount of marijuana..How could you not get out of jail alot more bitter to what it did to your family??
Time will tell if the scare of more severe conditions of the law will bring down reported laser strike's..Thinking though what Paul said, the abuse of power from the law.
I remember some individuals getting many years for possession of tiny amounts of marijuana in Texas back in the early 70s. One Mexican American man received a 20 year sentence for possession of five joints. Four years for each joint. It is now perfectly legal in two states...one in which I live. I have heard there are store fronts where anyone who is 21 years old or older may buy as much as they like. Where is the justice?

There is a story of an elderly Mexican American who was sentenced to life for possession of a small amount of marijuana. He addressed the judge saying, "I can't do that much time." The judge said, "That's okay. Just do as much as you can." This is a true story from the 1950s.
 
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