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Australia: National ban on high-powered laser pointers

Minister for Police Paul Holloway said today [14 June 2008] Federal, State and Territory Police Ministers meeting in Sydney have agreed to a national approach to combat a spate of high-powered laser attacks on aircraft. Mr Holloway says he will immediately seek to update State laws to include high-powered lasers with a greater output of one milliwatt on the South Australian Schedule of Prohibited Weapons.

“The State Government and South Australia Police consider the misuse of these laser pointers to be an issue of potential danger to the public,” Mr Holloway says. “These high-powered lasers can be incredibly harmful, particularly if shone into the cockpits of aeroplanes or cabins of other high-powered vehicles, potentially leading to widespread damage and even death.”
In April this year, an Adelaide man became one of the first people in Australia to be successfully prosecuted for shining a laser at an aircraft. Lanfranco Baldetti was sentenced to two years and three months’ jail in the District Court after pleading guilty to prejudicing the safe operation of an aircraft.

“These types of gutless and cowardly attacks have to be stopped, that’s why we will act quickly to make these types of laser pointers a prohibited weapon,” Mr Holloway says.

Recent incidents in Australia involving the misuse of high-powered lasers include:

• 7 June 2008: A teenager is questioned in relation to the use of a high-powered laser beam being pointed at planes in Sydney.
• 21 April 2008: A police helicopter pilot circling Guildford, New South Wales is hit by a strong laser beam.
• 21 April 2008: Police respond to complaints about two teenagers pointing green lasers at cars in Chapel Rd Bankstown, New South Wales.
• 20 March 2008: A pilot is forced to take evasive action after being hit several times by a green laser beam while flying over Joondanna, Western Australia.
• 28 March 2008: Six aircraft flying into Sydney Airport are hit in a co-ordinated attack by blinding green lights in what safety officials say is the city's worst laser attack. [This turns out to have been done by boys on a golf course; see update here.]

One laser pointer on the market has a range of 22 kilometres and can melt plastic and light cigars.

The proposed amendments will allow exemptions for legitimate bodies and organisations that require these high-powered laser pointers such as surveyors, scientists, engineers and astronomers.

The changes will build on the Federal Government’s ban from 1 July on the importation of high-intensity laser pointers announced last month by Minister for Home Affairs Bob Debus.

From the Government of South Australia