A comprehensive resource for safe and responsible laser use

UK: Couple found in bed, having aimed laser beam at search helicopter, then hiding laser pen under a mattress

A police helicopter was searching Hebburn (in Tyne and Wear) on May 8 2013 for a missing 11-year-old boy, when the cockpit filled with green laser light. The crew was startled and the pilot changed course. The beam was traced to a home in Hebburn. In a back bedroom, ground officers found two persons on a bed, 18-year-old Victoria Rayner and her 25-year-old boyfriend Robert Gilbert. Both denied having a laser pen. After a struggle during the arrest, officers found the laser pen under the mattress.

On August 27 2013, they both pleaded guilty to shining a light at an aircraft in flight so as to dazzle the pilot. Additionally, Gilbert pleaded guilty to resisting arrest. There is no prison term available for the offenses, only fines. They were fined a total of £305 (USD $473): a fine of £100 each, court costs of £85, and a victim surcharge of £20.

Victoria Rayner Robert Gilbert laser
Victoria Rayner and Robert Gilbert

The couple’s lawyer told the court that “both defendants were sorry and didn’t realize that the laser was powerful enough to reach a helicopter.” They had been using it to aggravate a nearby dog and “didn’t intend” to aim at the helicopter.

The pilot noted that “this was a direct laser attack on my aircraft. It caused a significant distraction and, had it happened during an emergency, it could have had serious consequences.” The Northumbria Police and Crime Commissioner said “This was extremely reckless behavior, which could have had horrific consequences…. This relatively small fine does mean offenders appear to have been let off somewhat lightly…”

From the Shields Gazette: Original story and response of the police commissioner