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UK: 16 and 12 week sentences for two Birmingham-area men in "persistent and determined" laser pen attack

Two men from Walsall were sentenced September 2 2014 for up to 16 weeks in prison, for what a West Midlands police helicopter pilot called the most “persistent and determined” laser pen attack in his 14 years with the police.

Claudio Bruno, 48, of Bloxwich and Carl Keates, 23, of Walsall pleaded guilty to recklessly endangering the safety of an aircraft. Bruno -- said to be responsible for 90 percent of the attack -- was sentenced to 16 weeks in jail. Keates was sentenced to 12 weeks.

The two had been drinking when they began to aim a laser at the police helicopter as it was tracking a stolen car. The “repeated and prolonged” attack lasted about 25 minutes, 10 of which was filmed by the helicopter. Video footage showed that both men were fully aware of what they were doing.

Bruno told arresting police that it was a joke, but then said his actions had put the helicopter in danger. He had purchased the laser about six months before to point out constellations in the night sky. Keates said he did not know if the laser would reach the helicopter.

At trial, the defender said that Bruno, in particular, was terrified at the prospect of the court case: "His family say he has not been able to eat or sleep and has wept constantly. He is extremely remorseful, not for his position but for what he did. It was stupid, foolish and reckless."

During sentencing, the judge said "This type of case is one of the most difficult that a judge has to deal with because I have before me two men of good character but each charged with a very serious offence. I accept you are both very remorseful. You had both been drinking and no doubt thought it would be a jokey thing to do but it was not and it could have had catastrophic consequences."

From the Walsall Advertiser and the Express & Star

UK: Man in parked car aims laser pen at West Midlands police helicopter

A 25-year-old man from Nechells, an inner-city area of Birmingham, was arrested August 6 2013 after he aimed a laser pen at a West Midlands Police helicopter. The incident occurred at 11:30 pm in Edgbaston, an affluent area of Birmingham. The laser beam came from a parked car. Ground officers arrested Abdulhamid Ansi, a factory worker, on suspicion of endangering an aircraft. A court date was set for August 21 2013.

According to the Civil Aviation Authority, there have been over 220 laser incidents in the West Midlands "in the last two years", as of July 3 2013.

Arrest report from the Birmingham Mail and West Midlands Police; CAA statistics from an earlier Birmingham Mail article

UK: Teen jailed for 6 months for laser attack on commercial flight

A 19-year-old, whose lawyer said he had learning difficulties and was “immature,” was sentenced on October 20 2011 to six months in jail after pleading guilty to lasing a police helicopter.

On September 11 2011, the West Midlands Air Support helicopter was sent to investigate a report of a commercial flight that had been illuminated by a green laser. The police crew was themselves dazzled by a green laser, aimed from a car on the ground. They directed ground units to the car where Wayne Junior French was sitting. He admitted shining the laser at the helicopter.

The presiding judge in Birmingham Crown Court said French would have had a much longer sentence if convicted of dazzling the commercial flight. He said “I have no doubt at the time you didn’t think through what you were doing but it was a plainly deliberate act.”

French’s lawyer said French “does express genuine remorse and is absolutely terrified about custody. He hasn’t slept properly since he was arrested.”

From the
Birmingham Mail

UK: Birmingham-area man claims dog, not copter, was his target; judge disagrees

A judge rejected the claim that a Small Heath man was trying to attract his dog’s attention when he aimed a green laser pointer at a police helicopter flying over Birmingham. Joshua Bough, 28, had admitted endangering the safety of an aircraft in the March 28 2011 incident, but said it was not deliberate. Bough claimed his puppy had run off and “he used the laser pen to attract the dog’s attention because sometimes it would get lost and confused in the dark.”

Judge John Maxwell said the account was not supported by video footage of the incident. The judge further warned Bough that he should expect a prison sentence.

From the Birmingham Mail

UPDATE August 24 2011: Bough was sentenced to 16 months in jail. Judge Maxwell said the situation was “intolerable” and added “If we are to avoid the terrible consequences that will sooner or later follow if people behave as you did, the court will do what it can to protect the public and punish the offender.” From the Birmingham Mail

UK: Teen charged in 30-minute attack

An unnamed 17-year-old aimed a laser pen at a police helicopter for 30 minutes. He was arrested and charged with shining a light at an aircraft so as to dazzle or distract the pilot.

The incident happened May 18 2011 in the skies over the West Midlands area near Birmingham; the boy is from Warley (Birmingham Mail) or Sandwell (BBC). According to police, the pilot “used his skills to position the aircraft away from the beams during the ground attack.”

From the
Birmingham Mail and the BBC

UK: Footage of Birmingham helicopter tracking suspect after being lasered

Birmingham police released a video showing two youths lasering a helicopter, then running and unsuccessfully attempting to flee.


Frame from video showing a direct hit on the camera


The youths are standing under a streetlight, next to a car as they continue to aim at the helicopter


The infrared camera gets a close-up view as the youth on the right aims his laser


After realizing he may be in trouble, one of the youths starts running


The camera pulls back and is able to track him. He was later captured and fined
£100 in youth court.



Click to play the YouTube video

For a transcript of the video narration, click the “Read More...” link below.

Related stories in the Birmingham Mail March 11 2009 and April 6 2009, and the Sunday Mercury May 7 2009

Click to read more...