Man endangers aircraft with laser pen
A 25-year-old man was given a suspended prison sentence yesterday for endangering a police aircraft by directing a laser pen at it as it flew overhead.
Richard Wakeman, of The Cloisters, Fareham, Hampshire, was arrested on October 15 this year following several incidents in which a high-powered green laser beam was shone directly at the Hampshire Constabulary spotter plane.
The final incident was caught on camera using thermal imagery and a laser pen was later recovered.
Mr Wakeman pleaded guilty to three counts of endangering an aircraft, under the provisions of the Air Navigation Order 2005, Article 73. He was sentenced at Portsmouth Crown Court to three months' imprisonment for an offence in February and nine months for two offences in November to run concurrently and all suspended for two years.
He was also ordered to complete 150 hours of community service.
PC Mark Arnold, from Hampshire Police's Air Support Unit, said: "This is a really serious issue which can cause temporary blindness to pilots and crew, the potential implications of which are extremely grave.
"While the use of laser pens against all aircraft types might appear harmless to some, the consequences of endangering the safety of an aircraft this way could be catastrophic. "This is also a criminal offence, which today's sentence demonstrates the justice system takes very seriously.
"Although the purchase of laser pens is not illegal itself, the reckless use of them towards aircraft, vehicles or people is.
"We urge everyone who is in possession of a laser pen to be more responsible with them and encourage others to do so too."