A LASER gun which fires a blinding wall of light capable of stopping rioters in their tracks is to be trialled by police.
The Home Office says traditional methods of crowd control, including CS gas and Tasers, leave a ‘capability gap’ because of their short range, and the use of lasers ‘has merit.’
It has now said a police force, so far unidentified, will run a pilot scheme for the laser technology.
Similar laser weapons have been used in Iraq and Afghanistan to protect military convoys from insurgent attacks and avoid unnecessary casualties.
The technology is also being offered to shipping companies plagued by pirates around Somalia.
The SMU 100, a shoulder mounted non-lethal device designed by a Scottish company, is designed to temporarily blind anyone caught in its beam of light.
The wall of light can be three meters square and is projected up to 500 meters away.
Paul Kerr, managing director of Clyde-based Photonic Security Systems who developed the SMU 100, said police could ‘paint’ potential offenders with the laser to make them think twice about their actions.
“The system would give police an intimidating visual deterrent. If you can’t look at something you can’t attack it.
“If… police spot someone trying to do something untoward, painting them with this would certainly make them think twice about it.
He added: “If you have a hostage situation, stunning their vision isn’t a bad thing either.”
Looking at the gun’s laser beam cause a short-lived effect similar to staring at the sun, forcing a target to turn away.
The device costs around £25,000.
The cutting edge technology has impressed a division of the Home Office, which is testing a new array of technology because of the growing number of violent situations police face.
It has been considering new kinds of non-lethal equipment in the wake of the August riots in England, which saw vast amounts of looting, violence and arson.
The technology is now being checked by scientists who will have to be satisfied the technology does not cause lasting damage to health.
If approved, it can be sent to the Home Secretary to approve it for use by police around the UK.
Other technology being considered includes long range chemical irritant projectiles and wireless electronic stun guns which have a greater range than Tasers.
During the August riots the Prime Minister announced water cannon would be available at 24 hours’ notice to deal with the despicable violence seen in cities across England.
The laser dazzler could also be used by British ships to repel pirate attacks off the coast of Somalia.
It can blind pirates before they can get within range to fire small arms.
Labour MSP David Stewart has given his backing to a Photonic Security Systems device designed to tackle piracy.
He said: “I was very impressed with concept of the product in what is clearly an important and topical issue.
“The issue of maritime piracy is one of growing significance with substantial costs to British business, not to mention the human cost involved, so preventing it is important in what are already difficult and challenging economic times.”
He said he had written to Business Secretary Vince Cable to ask for government support on the technology’s development.