Man jailed for targeting police helicopter with laser

PUBLISHED: 07:00 16 July 2012

A laser beam being shone at a helicopter

A laser beam being shone at a helicopter

David Spear

A MAN has been jailed for shining a laser pen at a police helicopter and endangering its crew and people on the ground.

Alexander Nicholls was sentenced to six months’ imprisonment on Monday after admitting a crime which magistrates said could have had a ‘catastrophic’ effect.

The incident is part of a growing pattern of similar crimes, with the Crown Prosecution Service saying the targeting of aircraft has become ‘increasingly prevalent’ in and around Weston.

The helicopter had been deployed at 1.45am on May 12 after reports that a vehicle had been stolen in central Weston.

It arrived at about 2am, and was hovering above the town at about 1,000ft.

Jane Cooper, prosecuting, said Nicholls, aged 23, had been in his home in Clifton Road, ‘trying to find aircraft’ with the laser pen, which had a blue beam.

He saw a bright flash, which turned out to be the helicopter, before turning the beam on it for about six minutes.

Ms Cooper said the helicopter’s cockpit had been illuminated by the beam, not allowing the crew to use their flight instruments.

The beam also hit one of the pilot’s eyes, but the captain eventually managed to move the craft away from the light while he talked police officers to Nicholls’ address.

On arrival, officers found he had hidden the pen in an airing cupboard.

At Monday’s hearing Nicholls pleaded guilty to one count of recklessly or negligently acting in a manner likely to endanger an aircraft or people in an aircraft.

Ms Cooper told the court that it was just one incident where someone had shone a laser pen at aircraft in the Weston area.

She said: “It is increasingly prevalent in Weston, with people targeting aircraft on their way to Bristol Airport.”

Sue Baker, defending, described Nicholls as ‘a complex gentleman’ who had never meant to intentionally endanger the aircraft or dazzle its pilot.

But, sentencing him to six months in jail, magistrates said that the incident was so serious a prison term was the only option.

Chair of the bench Anna Blackmore said the sentence should act as ‘a deterrent’, adding: “Our view is that your actions endangered the pilot and crew of the helicopter and people on the ground.

“The result could well have been catastrophic.”

So far this year there have been 31 reported laser hits against aircraft in Avon and Somerset, compared to 26 for the same period last year.

Superintendent Ian Smith of Avon and Somerset Constabulary’s Operations Unit said: “Anyone who shines a laser at an aircraft performs a dangerous and reckless act.

“When a laser is directed at any aircraft it puts life at risk and in the case of the police helicopter hinders the apprehension of offenders and delays the investigation of crime.”

A spokesman for Bristol Airport said: “The growing number of incidents of this nature at airports across the UK is a concern for all involved in aviation.

“Safety is of paramount importance, and at Bristol Airport we take any incident with the potential to endanger aircraft extremely seriously.

“We work closely with air traffic control to ensure any incidents are reported immediately, enabling the police to pinpoint the location of the offence and take action against those responsible.”

More from Weston Mercury

15 minutes ago

The sky above Weston Cricket Club will once again become a flurry off bright, colourful lights and loud bangs.

Read more
23 minutes ago

Four Weston-super-Mare drug-dealers have been jailed for trying to sell cannabis.

Read more
36 minutes ago

A crafty initiative set up to spread kindness around the town is encouraging people to paint a poppy on a pebble to pay their respects on Remembrance Sunday.

Read more

The following court cases were heard at North Somerset Courthouse from August 21 to September 3.

Read more
In The Dock

Keen knitters have been busy making poppies which will cover a Weston church to mark the end of World War One.

Read more

Plans for 200 houses and a medical centre would ‘destroy’ a village’s ‘character’ after the landowner’s agents announced its plans to appeal the decision.

Read more
Yesterday, 20:00

One of the most nerve-shredding horror movie characters has been reborn again for a terrifying film which will hit cinema screens this autumn.

Read more
Yesterday, 19:25

Weston will face Harrogate Town or Wrexham in the first round of the FA Cup.

Read more
Yesterday, 17:00

A life-saving emergency service is looking for people to join its ranks as one of the busiest stations in the South West.

Read more
Yesterday, 15:31

Oscar-winning director Danny Boyle will orchestrate a World War One centenary commemoration in Weston-super-Mare, remembering those who died in battle with a poignant display on the beach.

Read more

Most Read News

Read Online

Read the Weston Worle and Somerset Mercury e-edition E-edition

Local Weather

Partly Cloudy

Partly Cloudy

max temp: 13°C

min temp: 9°C

Useful Links

Advertise in the paper
Submit a Story
Subscribe to the paper
Send Your Letters
Order Photos
Family notices
Reader Travel

Family Notices 24

Newsletter Sign Up

Weston Mercury twice-weekly newsletter
Sign up to receive our regular email newsletter

Our Privacy Policy

Show Job Lists