Beds, Herts & Bucks

Bedford man jailed for pointing laser at police helicopter

Impression of effect of laser light in cockpit of plane Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption The laser was pointed at a police helicopter about six times

A man who shone a laser pen at a police helicopter was identified by his pot belly, bald head and Liverpool football shirt, a court heard.

Neil Lanham, 50, pointed the laser at least six times at the aircraft.

Those on board, who were looking for a suspect, pinpointed the source using cameras and gave a description to police on the ground who arrested him.

Lanham, of Woburn Road in Bedford, pleaded guilty and was jailed at Luton Crown Court for four months.

Judge Barbara Mensah said the "blinding of a pilot could have catastrophic effects".

"It may have damaged his eyesight. He would have been unable to control his helicopter. It may have caused the fatalities of those in the helicopter and on the ground. It was a built up area," she said.

'Gross stupidity'

Prosecutor David Stanton said that the National Police Air Service (NPAS) single-piloted helicopter had been called out shortly after 21:00 BST on 13 September and was travelling at 1,300ft (400m).

It was piloted by Captain Christopher Hawkins, who had four crew on board.

Mr Stanton said: "Without warning, a green laser light entered the cockpit and pulsed. It lasted for 10 seconds. Captain Hawkins looked away and took avoiding action..

"It was not just the once. The helicopter moved position but the beam was directed five or six more times at it over a period of five minutes."

He said Lanham was seen in his rear garden with another man and was identified by his "noticeably large stomach", "balding" head and his Liverpool football shirt.

Defence barrister, Graham Blower, said the offence was "completely out of character", and that Lanham described what he had done as "gross stupidity".

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