Is it Illegal to have a Laser Pointer or Pen?
Lasers are commonplace at home and in the workplace. They fulfill an important role in medicine and in industry.
Many modern appliances contain a laser (e.g. computers, DVD players, laser printers. Even so, the consumer would not usually have access to the LED in its normal use).
It is not uncommon to find laser pointers or pens in the home. But, some of them are more powerful than the accepted level for unrestricted use.
The light beam can be ‘seen’ in some of the most modern domestic products. Examples include handheld medical devices and even some children’s toys.
Note: The power of certain types of laser pen pointers have the potential to cause eye damage and other injuries.
So, here’s the deal:
In fact, it is not an offence to own a laser pen in the United Kingdom. Lecturers often use laser pens and pointers when making a presentation.
Even though you can buy them in the shops, most of them will have a weak beam. Thus, exposure to the ray of light through misuse of such products is unlikely to result in an eye injury.
UK lasers laws have no direct regulation on laser pointers. But, laser pens more powerful than Class 2 can cause injury. Health Protection Agency restricts the sale of laser classifications above this level (>1 mW).
So, owning a laser pen is not illegal in the UK (in itself). But, there are some situations where having a laser could be committing an offence, such as if:
- A person had a laser pointer in the street and used it (or intended to use it) to shine into people eyes.
- Someone pointed a laser at a car or at an aircraft in flight. This law took effect in 2010 and the police would consider this as being a particularly serious offence.
Note: The police enforce all the laws on offensive weapons (e.g. bb guns, crossbows, and knives). Using lasers in public may have a detrimental effect on the quality of life for people in the community. Thus, the police can issue a Community Protection Notice for anti social behaviour.
New Laser Pointer Laws
The Department for Transport (DfT) introduced tough new laser misuse laws in July 2018.
The outcome of the laser pointer laws mean:
- There are new and tougher penalties for people who target lasers at any vehicle operators.
- The laws aim to protect vehicle passengers and operators from a growing concern about lasers.
- A punishment of up to 5 years in prison and unlimited fines for the worst offenders.
Note: The penalties apply to people who target all types of vehicles including boats, cars, planes, and trains. The worst offenders can get up to five (5) years in prison, an unlimited fine, or both.
Laser Misuse (Vehicles) Act
The Laser Misuse (Vehicles) Act became law on the 10th of July 2018. It expanded to protect air traffic controllers carrying out important flight navigation work.
It is an act that provides police with more powers to catch and prosecute the offenders. There is no longer a need for law enforcement to prove intention to endanger a vehicle.
In the UK, the Aviation Minister gave some of the reasons behind the introduction of the new laser regulations:
- The reckless use of lasers can have very serious consequences – sometimes fatal. The government has now toughened up the laser law to crack down on this very dangerous behaviour.
- The main aim is to offer greater protection for transport operators and passengers. They need protection from irresponsible and reckless laser use.
The latest figures show the number of laser aviation incidents are falling. In fact, they show some of the lowest levels since 2009.
BALPA is the British Airline Pilots’ Association that represents the interest of UK pilots. Their Head of Flight Safety reiterated the fact that:
- The public must understand that lasers are not toys. Shining a laser pointer at an aircraft endangers all those on board as well as others on the ground.
- The UK Government have given the police greater powers. As such, anyone caught misusing lasers could face five years inside a jail.
Legislation removes the necessity for police officers to establish proof of intention to endanger. It means people will find it much more difficult to hide behind a claim that they ‘did it by accident’.
Advice for Parents about Laser Toys
Have you bought a laser for your kids or do they have one that doesn’t have a valid use? If so, it may be better to remove the batteries and throw it away.
It could be the best way to avoid getting a criminal record. Even though you, or your children, may believe it to be a toy, it might turn out to be a costly mistake to make.
Note: Did you find the answer you were searching for? If not, you might find it under a different category in the Police Questions and Answers section.