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UK: £250 fine for aiming laser pen at helicopter with police on board

On September 5 2013, a 25-year-old Ryhope man was fined £250 (USD $390) for aiming a laser pen at a helicopter being flown for Northumbria Police. Gavin Brace had pleaded guilty to directing or shining a light at an aircraft in flight so as to dazzle or distract the pilot.

Brace told police he wanted to see how far the laser pen could reach, and that he did not realize the effect it would have on the pilot. In sentencing Brace, the judge said: "I regret that the offense you are charged with can only be punished with a fine, many people will feel that is inadequate."
On August 17 2013, a commercial pilot was flying over Ryhope (south of Sunderland in Tyne and Wear) with two Northumbria police officers on board when the pilot saw a flickering effect in his peripheral vision. He turned the helicopter away from the light. The pilot told the court that if he had not taken evasive action, he could have had permanently impaired vision and it would have been difficult to read the instruments.

The judge told Brace "The skill of the pilot prevented a serious accident. Your behavior was not only very stupid, it was also deliberate.”

Brace's lawyer explained how the laser was procured and misused: “Mr Brace had been on holiday to Egypt, and had attended a stargazing night where laser pens were used to identify different constellations. He purchased one of these thinking he could show his friends when he got home. On the night in question, he and his brother were in the house. They heard a noise outside, and the defendant said if you follow the light I’ll show you where it is, not realising the net effect it would have on the people inside. He didn’t realise the ramifications of it. There was no malicious intent to what he now knows was a stupid act.”

From the Sunderland Echo