Northern Ireland news

No-one prosecuted for flying a drone in Northern Ireland last year

No-one in Northern Ireland was prosecuted last year for flying a drone, despite increasing reports of their use
John Monaghan

NO-ONE in Northern Ireland was prosecuted last year for flying a drone, despite the Public Prosecution Service considering four cases and warnings from pilots about their dangers.

In response to a Freedom of Information request, seen by The Irish News, the PPS said it had considered four cases but all "were directed as no prosecutions".

The Crown Prosecution Service in England and Wales prosecuted two people for drone-related offences in 2017, while there were seven people charged in Scotland.

In April, it emerged that the PSNI had dealt with a 30 per cent increase in reports of drones within 12 months, from 197 in 2016 to 258 last year.

The Belfast Harbour Police received 15 reports of drones between 2016 and this year, but just one case resulted in a caution being administered.

While a number of drones or users could not be located after initial sightings, two people were given "advice and a warning".

In May, new laws were brought before the House of Commons aimed at creating a database of drone users.

It was introduced following a sharp rise in the number of incidents involving drones and aircraft across the UK. There were six recorded incidents in 2014, jumping to 93 last year.

The rules, which came into effect earlier this week, ban the flying of a drone above 400ft, and within one kilometre of airport boundaries.

Anyone flouting the restrictions could face an unlimited fine and/or up to five years in prison.

Further legislation is also due to give police more powers to intervene on the spot if drones are being used inappropriately.

From November next year, drone users will be required to take an online safety test, while those with drones weighing 250g or more will have to register with the Civil Aviation Authority.

The British Airline Pilots Association (BALPA) said that should a drone collide with an aircraft the consequences could be "catastrophic".

Dr Rob Hunter, from BALPA, said: "BALPA has for some time been calling for registration and licensing schemes for drones and we are encouraged by the government's steps towards making this a reality.

"This should make tracking down offenders easier and therefore we would see those who have flown their drones irresponsibly appropriately reprimanded for their actions.

"Hobbyist drones have no business being flown near an airport and, should a collision occur with aircraft, could have catastrophic consequences."

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