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Laser Jammers and the law

At present there is no law expressly making the use of laser jammers unlawful, but a number of prosecutions arising out of their use makes it risky to use one. The consequences can be serious.

At present there is no law expressly making the use of laser jammers unlawful, but a number of prosecutions arising out of their use makes it risky to use one.

The consequences can be serious.

There are many devices freely and relatively cheaply available for purchase over the internet that are said to perform a variety of functions from parking sensors to opening garage doors. Some are very sophisticated and the function can be switched by the driver.

Using one to interfere with a speed detection device being operated by a police officer could well result in an arrest and charge for perverting the course of justice.

Perverting the course of justice is a serious offence and on conviction carries life imprisonment. Long term imprisonment tends to be reserved for those who interfere with trials or investigations for example by threatening witnesses.

Nonetheless drivers using such devices to stop or interfere with police speed detection do face a Crown Court appearance and a serious risk of prison and disqualification.

I represented a client who was travelling at a speed modestly in excess of the speed limit. He approached a Traffic Officer deploying a laser device to check his speed, and on each occasion he attempted to do so the device showed “error”.

The Officer was sure something was stopping the device from registering the speed, although it did perform its normal function of recording the vehicle. The video enabled the speed of the vehicle to be checked, by working out how long it took to pass fixed points.  It was easy to see the vehicle was speeding.

In this instance the police obtained a search warrant and attended my client’s home to search his vehicle. That revealed a device fitted behind the front number plate and a police expert was able to deconstruct it and demonstrate its ability to diffuse the laser beam from the speed gun.

My client was charged with perverting the course of justice and his case moved swiftly from the Magistrates to the Crown Court.

Why perverting the course of justice?

The simple answer is that there is no statutory offence committed (because there is no legislation outlawing the use of these devices) and so there is no alternative, with one minor exception. If the operator of the speed gun is a police officer an alternative might be a charge of obstructing a police officer in the course of his duty. That can be dealt with in the Magistrates Court and can be quickly over.

However there is a problem if the person operating the speed gun is not a police constable as properly defined. Many are not and are Police Support Employees with speed equipment training.

The Crown Prosecution Service or even the court may be very reluctant indeed to see a drop from perverting the course of justice to obstruction if the person obstructed was not a police constable.

What is perverting the course of justice?

The offence is committed where a person:

  • does an act (a positive act or series of acts is required; mere inaction is insufficient)
  • which has a tendency to pervert and
  • which is intended to pervert
  • the course of public justice.

The course of justice includes the police investigation of a possible crime and it is not necessary for legal proceedings to have begun.

In this way it fits the use of a laser jammer.

In my case we had a very helpful Court who was prepared to view it leniently. The CPS was determined to go to trial over knowledge of what the device would do, but the Judge gave an “indication” of what he would do after a guilty plea, and my client left with a modest fine and a conditional discharge. It could have been far worse but he had good legal advice and excellent counsel.

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