IT is much more than an act of wanton stupidity. It could put lives at risk. Aviation industry experts are unequivocal in their condemnation of those who shine laser pointers or pens at aircraft and the dangers such reckless behaviour poses. Some pilots have described the effect of being targeted as being like a lightning strike.

Often it can temporarily blind air crew and prevent them from accurately reading instruments as the light bounces around the cockpit which is especially dangerous during manoeuvres like landing. Earlier this month Spanish police arrested a British father and son after the pair were accused of shining the devices towards planes as they approached Malaga Airport.

Such incidents are on the rise here too. According to a recent survey carried out by the British Airline Pilots’ Association (Balpa), 55 per cent of pilots interviewed said they had been subjected to laser attacks in the last 12 months. More than 1,250 incidents were reported last year, according to the Civil Aviation Authority. Train drivers have also been the targeted.

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The news ministers are to look again at measures to tackle the rogue use of laser pens is clearly welcome. Currently, shining lasers at aircraft can incur a fine of up to £2,500. But much to the frustration of Balpa, a pre-general election bill that included proposals that offenders could face up to five years in prison was subsequently dropped.

Under consideration now are ideas ranging from licensing for retailers and shoppers to restrictions on advertising. Licensing schemes already exist in countries such as Australia, Canada and the US, so Britain has been lagging far behind. Transport safety aside, there are other good reasons why the availability of laser pens needs to be re-assessed.

A survey of UK ophthalmologists has reported more than 150 incidents of eye injuries involving laser pens since 2013, the vast majority affecting children.

Promises rather than concrete measures by the government have left many, especially those within the aviation industry, concerned about the likelihood of yet further delays on action.

They also point to existing fines and legal proceedings not going far enough, insisting the only way to deal with the problem of rogue use of laser pens is to designate them as an offensive weapon.

As Balpa spokesman Captain David Smith recently pointed out, there is no practical application a member of the public can use these lasers for. Current legislation is totally inadequate when it requires police to find the person shining a laser at an aircraft or train at precisely that time to be able to convict them. It is an almost impossible task.

The latest government announcement on taking further action has been long overdue. Suggested new proposals may well still prove inadequate and lack teeth in terms of convictions and punishment. If this proves to be the case, then even greater urgency is required to prevent the fatal incidents many fear.