John calls for action on laser-pen danger to aircraft

Inverness SAR Helicopter
The Inverness search-and-rescue targeted with a laser pen last month. (Photo: Dave Conner on Flickr. CC BY 2.0)
John Finnie has called on the Scottish Government to tighten the law on laser pens, after the Inverness search-and-rescue helicopter was targeted and a transatlantic flight was aborted in laser attacks.

John has written to the Justice Secretary, Michael Matheson MSP, and to the Lord Advocate, Frank Mulholland QC, requesting an urgent review of the law on the sale and possession of laser pens. He also called for improved technology to enable police to identify culprits and protect aircraft.

John said:

“The danger posed by laser pen attacks on aircraft is not a new one, but they do seem to be increasingly frequent and more powerful lasers are more easily available than ever before.

“Just a fortnight before the widely-reported incident on Sunday that forced a Virgin Atlantic flight to turn back, Inverness’s Coastguard helicopter was targeted while conducting a search-and-rescue operation in the centre of the city.

“Good fortune and expert flying skills prevented what could have been a major disaster.

“This was the second such attack to affect the Inverness helicopter in a year, and similar incidents are recorded right across Scotland.

“I’ve asked the Justice Secretary and the Lord Advocate to undertake an urgent review of the law. The law must reflect the seriousness of this crime and its horrific potential consequences and it must address the wide availability of powerful lasers.

“I’m also calling for a multi-agency effort to improve our technical ability to locate the source of laser-pen attacks.

“We must not wait for a catastrophic loss of life before taking action on this dangerous crime.”

John also pointed out that Scotland’s island communities, with their high volumes of small-aircraft movements, were particularly vulnerable:

“Island communities rely more heavily on air travel than mainland ones, and airports like Stornoway, Kirkwall and Sumburgh handle many small aircraft operating at low altitudes. The very real threat that laser-pen attacks pose to island air safety demands urgent action.”

As well as being MSP for the Highlands and Islands, John is the Scottish Green Party’s national spokesperson on justice issues.