Tougher laws which could see offenders who shine lasers at aircraft jailed for five years have been welcomed at East Midlands Airport - which has suffered dozens of attacks.

Airport staff have insisted that safety is a "number one priority" after new laws which will see people who shine lasers at air, ground and sea vehicles jailed for up to five years, were introduced.

The new legislation comes a year after a report showed there were more than 50 attacks at the popular airport last year alone.

The measures, which will also see culprits face unlimited fines, were introduced by the Department for Transport (DfT) amid fears that commonly-available laser pens can cause eye damage and in some cases render people temporarily blind.

When a laser is shone into a pilot's eye, they experience a bright flash and a dazzling effect, which can distract them and lead to temporary loss of vision in the affected eye while experts have also warned that lasers can have "catastrophic" consequences.

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National Police Chiefs' Council (NPCC) lead for lasers, Commander Simon Bray, said shining a laser at an aircraft or another moving vehicle was "deeply irresponsible and dangerous."

He said: "Laser attacks can lead to catastrophic incidents. These new and robust measures send a clear message to perpetrators: laser attacks are a crime and serious consequences will follow from committing this offence."

The new laws will make it easier to prosecute offenders by removing the need to prove they intended to endanger a vehicle. It will be an offence to dazzle or distract the operator of a vehicle either deliberately or if reasonable precautions to avoid doing so are not taken.

Laser pens have been a growing concern in the aviation sector in recent years as pilots have been targeted by the beams.

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The first laser attack on an aircraft was reported in 2004 and since 2011 there have been around 1,500 incidents in the UK each year.

At East Midlands Airport alone, 54 incidents were reported in 2016, while nearby Birmingham Airport experienced 73 laser attacks the same year.

A spokesman for East Midlands Airport said the airport welcomed any action to tackle the problem.

He said: "Shining lasers at aircrafts is very dangerous and illegal. Safety is our number one priority and the airport supports any action taken to deal with this matter."

A total of 1,258 laser attacks were reported in 2016, with attacks at Heathrow alone rising by a quarter year-on-year to 151.

Andrew Haines, chief executive at the UK Civil Aviation Authority, said: "Shining a laser at an aircraft in flight could pose a serious risk to flight safety.

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"We are concerned about the high number of laser attacks in recent years and therefore welcome new measures that would see tougher penalties for those who act recklessly by endangering the safety of aircraft."

The Laser Misuse (Vehicles) Bill, which was published on Wednesday, expands the types of transport which are covered to include trains, buses, boats and hovercraft.