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Teenager arrested after police helicopter pilot is dazzled by laser pen

By Somerset Guardian  |  Posted: October 12, 2012

IN ACTION: A teenager has been arrested after shining a laser pen at the pilot of the police helicopter

A teenager has been arrested after a laser pen dazzled the pilot of the police helicopter over Radstock.

Police have warned of the dangers of pointing such devices into the sky after the 14-year-old boy was arrested in the town on suspicion of endangering the safety of an aircraft.

Avon and Somerset police had the helicopter out in the area at about 9.30pm last Wednesday, trying to follow up on unconfirmed reports of a crash where officers on the ground had been unable to find the car or the driver.

But before the helicopter crew could identify the location of the accident the pilot was forced to stop the search after being temporarily blinded by the laser pen being directed at the aircraft.

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Air Operations Inspector for Avon and Somerset police Barry Thomas said the pilot became aware of a laser shone in his direction and the crew alerted officers on the ground and directed them to the spot where the boy was arrested. He has since been bailed on suspicion of endangering the safety of an aircraft.

Mr Thomas said: "Shining a laser at the police helicopter is a dangerous and reckless act that could put the aircraft and crew at risk, and distracts them from the task they are performing. The boy's swift arrest shows how seriously we take this sort of behaviour.

"I hope this sends a warning to anyone who is thinking of shining a laser at any type of aircraft that it is stupid and that you will be prosecuted."

Police spokesman Simon Whitby added that the green beam sent out by laser pens impedes vision, making it impossible for a helicopter crew to see what they are doing.

He warned of the potentially fatal consequences of such actions and appealed to parents of teenagers to remind their offspring of the dangers they could be putting people in by using the laser pens irresponsibly.

The maximum penalty for recklessly or negligently acting in a manner likely to endanger an aircraft is a fine up to £5,000, and five years' imprisonment.

Earlier this year two men from Calne, in Wiltshire, were prosecuted for preventing an air ambulance from taking a dying man to hospital by dazzling the pilot with a laser pen.

They directed the green laser at the helicopter as the pilot desperately attempted to reach the critically ill heart patient.

But after three attempts, the pilot had to give up and return to base in Devizes.

The man died as he was being taken to hospital by road.

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