The mother of a boy whose eye was burnt by a laser pointer celebrated a legal victory this week, after the business owner who sold the hand-held devices as toys at a school fair was sentenced to 240 hours’ community service.
Lynsey McClure, 47, said she was “deeply sorry” for the distress caused when one of the Chinese-made items she sold at a Christmas fair at Edge Grove School in Radlett damaged the retina of eight-year old Jonathan Marshall from Bushey Heath.
The incident prompted Jonathan’s mother Angela to call for a change in the law, with doctors at Moorfields Eye Hospital saying “only time will tell” whether her son’s sight is permanently damaged.
The laser pointers, which are often made in Asia, are sold as toys, but campaigners say they could potentially blind someone.
McClure, who owns Busy Happy People, told trading standards officers that she had imported two batches of lasers from a Chinese supplier, which assured her they were UK-compliant.
However, while the lasers were labelled as having a maximum output of one milliwatt (mW), experts discovered that the beam actually had a power of 127mW, capable of causing permanent eye damage in less than a quarter of a second.
Last week, St Albans Magistrates’ Court heard how McClure’s brother was left running the stall and had been asked by the headmaster to stop selling the lasers.
Reacting, Angela said: “We wanted people to realise you can’t import things and not check them.”
The conviction is believed to be the first of its kind, linking the sale of a laser to a direct injury, and comes as the government considers whether to re-designate the pointers as “offensive weapons”.
Pilots’ unions have long called for sales restrictions, after several incidents in which the take-off and landing of a plane has have been compromised by people shining lasers from the ground up towards the cockpit.
It is illegal to manufacture the pointers in the UK, but Hertsmere MP Oliver Dowden has said there was “a worrying loophole” which allows them to be imported into the country.