A MAN who put the lives of a police helicopter pilot and his two passengers at risk by aiming a laser pen at the cockpit, dazzling one of the officers on board, has been jailed.
Alexandru Gheorghe pleaded guilty to shining a laser at an aircraft from his workplace at a Warwick haulage company.
Gheorghe, 28, of Heronfield Close, Redditch, was jailed for four months after a judge at Warwick Crown Court said his actions were ‘potentially catastrophic.’
Prosecutor Marcus Harry said that on May 16 a police helicopter was flying over Stratford at 10.30pm.
“The pilot saw a green light sparkle, which he recognised as a laser beam, and manoeuvred in an evasive action,” he said.
He asked one of the officers to get his goggles but while this was happening the pilot was dazzled by the beam and had to close his eyes momentarily.
Fortunately by then the pilot had steered the helicopter so the cockpit was pointing away from the light.
But Judge Sylvia de Bertodano observed: “This was not momentary, because what the pilot said was that even though the aircraft was moving position, the laser continued to follow it.”
As the helicopter remained overhead, the officers onboard located the light source using an infra-red camera.
As a result, they were able to direct officers on the ground to the Maxi Haulage site in Rothwell Road, Warwick where Gheorghe was working.
When interviewed he admitted he had shone the laser pen, which he had bought for £7 on e-bay, towards the helicopter three or four times.
The pilot, who had more than 30 years’ experience, said he had been attacked many times by laser beams, which he said diffuse on contact with the plastic screen, ‘bathing the cockpit in bright light,’ which was particularly dangerous at night.
Nick Devine, defending, conceded: “I can’t really mitigate the offence beyond saying it was a few moments of sheer, reckless, crass stupidity.”
He said Gheorghe was ‘not a man given to any kind of poor behaviour,’ and was normally a responsible hard-working man with a young family.
But jailing Gheorghe, Judge de Bertodano told him:“When you shine a light at an aircraft of any kind in that way it endangers the lives of those in the helicopter, and potentially other people on the ground if it had had an accident.”