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UK: 4 months jail for "endangering aircraft"

A 21-year-old man from Greater Manchester who temporarily blinded a police helicopter pilot with a laser pen has been jailed for four months. Dean Bottomley, of Stockport, pleaded guilty to endangering an aircraft during an earlier hearing at Manchester Minshull Street Crown Court.

Pilot Captain Mark Westwood told the court: "The overall effect was temporary blindness. I lost outside visual reference and could not see the instrumentation displayed in the aircraft.”

After the first incident he had to fly blind, taking emergency evasive action to position the helicopter out of the beam. He added: "It was a very dangerous manoeuvre, but I had to do it to get myself out of that dazzle."
The court heard that Bottomley bought the £30 pen on the internet and pointed it at the aircraft to see how far it reached.

Passing sentence, the judge urged him to "get out of this stupidity phase".

The court heard that the helicopter was flying over Heaton Norris in Stockport on 16 April when it was targeted by a bright green laser.

The light, which was being shone from the back bedroom window of a semi-detached house below, lit up the whole cockpit, leaving the pilot unable to see properly.

Bottomley "zapped" the aircraft up to 10 times with the laser, which had a range of up to five miles, the court heard.

After the pilot called for back-up, officers were directed to the house on Larwood Avenue and Bottomley admitted he was responsible.

Captain Westwood said the helicopter had earlier been zapped by another laser pen a few miles away and aircraft were increasingly being targeted by people with the devices.

Judge Mushtaz Khokhar, sentencing, said he had to make an example of him and imposed a "deterrent" sentence.

"You were reckless. There was a risk of catastrophic consequences ensuing if the pilot lost control of his helicopter," he said.

Speaking after the hearing, Supt John O'Hare, of Greater Manchester Police's Tactical Support Section, said Bottomley's actions "almost defied belief".

"This could clearly have had disastrous consequences for the helicopter and its crew. In different circumstances this incident could have resulted in a serious injury or even death. People might think that this is some sort of amusing prank, but I can assure you that it could have had deadly consequences."

From the BBC