Man pleads guilty to ‘dazzling’ pilot

Stefan Byrne shone a green laser pen at a police helicopter for six minutes.

Stefan Byrne shone a green laser pen at a police helicopter for six minutes. - Credit: Archant

A Weston man has admitted ‘recklessly’ shining a laser pen at a police helicopter and distracting its pilot, who was trying to track a stolen car on the Bournville estate.

Stefan Byrne, aged 21, appeared before magistrates at North Somerset Courthouse on September 1.

The court heard how Byrne shone the device at the aircraft at around 12.30am on July 18 from the window of his home in Baildon Crescent. Byrne continued to target the helicopter for approximately six minutes.

A statement from Captain Robert Brown described the difficulties Byrne’s actions had caused on the night.

He said: “The green light was dazzling and distracting and meant I and others had to look in the other direction to avoid damaging our eyesight while the cockpit was repeatedly illuminated.

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“It could have resulted in me losing my vision if I had not done so.”

Those in the helicopter managed to locate the source of the light, keeping it in their sights until officers on the ground arrived to investigate its source.

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They then entered the flat and quizzed Byrne on whether he owned the offending device.

He confirmed that he did, but said that it wasn’t working because he had no compatible batteries.

Police found some that fitted and the laser turned on. Byrne was subsequently arrested.

Stewart Angelinetta, defending, said that his client was unaware of the risk created when he committed the offence, and was only shining it to see if it would reach and reflect off the aircraft.

Byrne said during an interview that he did not know the helicopter belonged to the police and that he had been unsure as to whether it had had any affect. He had bought the laser pen for his pet dog to follow back to him when being walked or roaming outside.

Mr Angelinetta added: “He was not intending to cause harm and has nothing against the police.

“It was a stupid, impulsive thing to do and he has to accept that it was a reckless act.”

Byrne was granted unconditional bail and will be sentenced at Bristol Crown Court on September 24.

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