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Duma to introduce criminal punishment for blinding drivers, pilots

October 19, 2011, 19:25 UTC+3

Blinding the pilot of an aircraft is punishable with up to seven years in prison

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MOSCOW, October 19 (Itar-Tass) —— Russia’s State Duma has approved in the first reading amendments to the Criminal Code and Criminal Procedure Code envisaging punishments of up to ten years in jail for hooliganism against means of transport.

The bill introduces a new article of the Criminal Code, the deputy chairman of the State Duma’s committee concerned, Andrei Nazarov, told Itar-Tass.

"Part one establishes punishment for committing acts of hooliganism threatening the safety of ground vehicles, part two lists the same actions that threaten the safety of aircraft, and part three, the actions listed in part one and two that negligently caused the loss of human life or other serious consequences," he explained.

As one of the authors of the initiative, chairman of the Duma committee on constitutional legislation and statehood, Vladimir Pligin, said the penalty under part one of the new article was three years in prison or, as an alternative, a fine of up to 80 thousand rubles. Blinding the pilot of an aircraft, he said, is punishable with up to seven years in prison. If the aircraft or other means of transport crashed because of the use of "laser pointers,” the culprit will have to brace for spending ten years behind bars.

Pligin said that "various criminal acts that impede the safety vehicles became widely spread lately."

"This concerns ground transport, including trains. But of special significance are the so-called laser pointers capable of blinding air crews," said the legislator. He also highlighted the fact that the criminal liability under the new article will be effective as of 14 years of age.

According to the head of the committee, last year saw 30 to 50 such cases, the last of which took place in Rostov. "That the plane managed to land though its pilot was virtually blind for a while after being attacked by a laser beam is a miracle and evidence of the highest professionalism of the crew. But next time there may be no such good luck," concluded the head of the legislation committee.

The Opposition’s members this time presented a "common front" with the parliamentary majority to express their willingness to vote for United Russia’s bill. Communist Nikolai Kolomeitsev spoke in favor of its adoption and slammed actions by laser hooligans as a real conspiracy. He speculated that the laser pointers became massively spread as a result of "someone's deliberate action." In his view, these devices can incapacitate and blind any pilot, including the pilots of Russian combat aircraft.

And his counterpart from the Liberal Democrat faction, Sergei Ivanov, called for making use of the laser hooligans’ tactic and “if their tools are so powerful,” it might make sense to reserve money in the defense budget of 2012 to purchase some for the Russian army.

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