Law cracks down on laser pointers

Litigation

As we saw recently in the recent World Cup Russia v Algeria match, high powered laser pointers are a dangerous nuisance in the hands of irresponsible people. The NZ government has taken note of the danger and is putting a plan in place to alleviate the risks.

Laser pointers have become easily accessible as a result of globalisation and the online market place. Online stores boast reviews claiming laser pointers are ‘the perfect gift for the super villain’ or that they are ‘real life light sabers.’ Though laser pointers can be used for legitimate purposes, it is no surprise that instances of misuse are frequent. Subject to the power of the particular laser, misuse can directly cause skin and eye damage, or indirect damage if shone into the eyes of pilots or drivers for example.

Our government has recognised the risks associated with laser pointers. Through the Customs Import Prohibition (High-power Laser Pointers) Order 2013; and the Health (High-power Laser Pointers) Regulations 2013, parliament has restricted the supply and importation of laser pointers in New Zealand. Whilst permitted exceptions have been made for groups such as the armed forces, generally laser pointers above 1milliwatt are now subject to seizure by customs unless the recipient has successfully made an application (on oath) in advance to the Ministry of Health.

Parliament now seeks to restrict the possession of laser pointers, through its Summary Offences (Possession of High-Power laser pointers) Amendment Bill. This bill passed its committee stage on 25 June 2014. We expect therefore that it may not be long until it will be an offence to possess a hand-held high powered laser pointer in New Zealand without reasonable excuse.

Following the passing of this bill, if you have a high-powered laser pointer in your possession you should consider whether you have legitimate reason for its use. Any ‘reasonable excuse’ or legitimate use will of course be irrelevant if you are found to be misusing it at the time. If you have a high powered laser and are concerned about whether you do have a reasonable excuse to possess it, we invite you to contact us to discuss.

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