By Chris Greenwood
Rioters beware: Police set to deploy £25,000 James Bond-style laser that temporarily blinds
Police may be given a laser weapon that could repel rioters with a blinding wall of light.
The shoulder-mounted device, which resembles a rifle, temporarily impairs the vision of anyone looking towards it.
Developed by a former Royal Marine commando, the £25,000 laser can dazzle and incapacitate targets up to 1,640ft away by creating a 13ft wall of light.
Government scientists have been impressed by initial trials and are preparing to ask police to test it as potential weapon in a growing armoury of equipment aimed at preventing a repeat of the August riots.
The Home Office said it had to be tested further and guidelines drawn up for its use.
Paul Kerr, of Photonic Security Systems, the UK-based firm behind it, said the effect was like looking into a low sun on a bright winter day. He added: ‘It is horrible. It makes you look away.
‘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.’
Those behind the invention believe it has many uses, from deterring rioters to aiding high-risk hostage rescues.
The Home Office has been considering new forms of non-lethal equipment since a wave of looting and arson rocked the country.
The Metropolitan Police is considering buying three water canon at a cost of up to £4million but senior officers remain divided over how effective they would be.
The force is also increasing the number of officers trained to fire plastic bullets and has warned they could be used.
It has already deployed an imposing new portable metal fence in Whitehall during a recent anti-cuts demonstration.
The trailer-mounted fence, complete with spy-holes and police signs, was donated by the Government last year and is similar to those used in European cities.
A Home Office spokesman said the technology must be tested to ensure it does not cause any permanent ill effects and guidelines drawn up for its use.
He added: ‘Laser dazzle technology is one we have recognised as holding some merit.
‘However, prior to any police deployment a number of things need to be done to assess the technology’s suitability.’