The UK government has announced plans to curb the use of high-powered laser pointers, which pose risks to airline and rail services as well as the general public.

The Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy has pledged additional support to local authority ports and border teams, to stop unsafe laser pointers entering the UK.

This will include support for increased checks at borders, the testing of products to ensure they are safe, and ensuring teams have access to necessary scientific, technical and testing expertise.

The government said it will also work with manufacturers and retailers to improve labeling, and will improve the policing of online pointer sales by working with online retailers including Ebay.

In 2016 the Civil Aviation Authority received reports of 1,258 laser incidents in the UK, with Heathrow unsurprisingly being the most frequent location, and the British Transport Police recorded an average of just under 100 laser incidents per year on rail services between the period of April 1, 2011 and November 30, 2017.

It is already an offence to target aircraft with laser pointers, but the Laser Misuse (Vehicles) Bill, which will have its second reading this week, will seek to expand the list of vehicles covered under the offence.

The Bill will also make it easier to prosecute offenders by removing the need to prove intention to endanger a vehicle, and those caught could be jailed for up to five years.

The UK’s pilot association BALPA has welcomed the move, with general secretary Brian Strutton warning that “Shining a laser at an aircraft is extremely dangerous and has the potential to cause a crash that could be fatal to not only those on board, but people on the ground too”.,