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Australia - 1200 illegal pointers seized

Australian customs officers have seized 1200 high intensity laser pointers in eight weeks, after the ban on importing them without permits. The ban was introduced after numerous "laser attacks" on aircraft, police patrols and others.

"Under the new Customs regulations (introduced July 1), hand-held laser pointers with an emission level greater than one milliwatt (1mW) are prohibited, unless prior written permission has been granted," Minister for Home Affairs Bob Debus said.
The laser pointers were seized at mail centres in Brisbane, Melbourne, Perth and Sydney, Mr Debus said.

"The fact that so many have been intercepted - an average of 150 a week since the ban came into effect - just goes to show why the ban was necessary."

Earlier this year, a number of flights were targeted with lasers, including a co-ordinated 15-minute attack using four green lasers that forced six aircraft to change flight paths as they approached Sydney Airport.

In July, Zakary Babet, who shone a laser into the eyes of police in a hovering helicopter, was sentenced to six months jail but freed on a bond.

The State Government also introduced new laws banning laser pointers from public places without a reasonable explanation, with a penalty of up to two years' jail.

Possession of class three and four laser pointers - or high-powered lasers greater than one milliwatt - was also made illegal without a prohibited-weapons permit, with a maximum penalty of 14 years' jail.

The 1200 devices seized by Customs were likely to be destroyed, Mr Debus said.

The maximum penalty for importing laser pointers without approval is a fine of $110,000, or three times the value of the goods.

Legitimate users of high-intensity laser pointers - such as scientists, surveyors and astronomers - can apply to the Commonwealth Government for permission to import the items.

From the Sydney Morning Herald