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UK: UPDATED - Bristol man tried for forcing police helicopter to land after laser dazzle

A police helicopter pilot had impaired vision from a green laser pen, forcing him to land “at the nearest possible opportunity” in a December 3 2012 incident in the Hartcliffe district of Bristol. On March 20 2012, 31-year-old Stuart Bowering pleaded guilty to negligently acting in a manner likely to endanger an aircraft. Sentencing has not yet been imposed; the maximum penalty is six months imprisonment.

Stuart Bowering laser
Stuart Bowering

Pilot Paul Maddox told Bristol Magistrates’ Court that the light lasted about 15 seconds. An observer crew member said “the shafts of light were moving around the cockpit, restricting me from my task.” They were able to locate Bowering on the ground, where he was arrested. He told officers he had borrowed the laser pen and did not realize the beam would reach to the helicopter. According to his lawyer, Bowering was aware that lasing aircraft was illegal.

From This Is Bristol

Update April 10 2012: Bowering avoided jail “by a whisker” according to the judge, who sentenced him to a 12-month community order. He must attend a Thinking and Skills course, has a 90-day curfew between 9 pm and 6:30 am, and has to repay £200 in court costs. The judge said Bowering had been using the laser to play with his dogs, when he aimed it into the air. The initial illumination of the helicopter was an accident, but then it was repeated, the judge found. The pilot told the court that he had “temporary black spots” in his vision which almost caused him to stray into Bristol Airport’s airspace, which could have caused the diversion of a commercial flight that was on approach. From the Guardian