Laser lout put police copter in ‘grave danger’

Abby Arnison
Abby Arnison

A SINGLE mum put a police helicopter in “grave danger” by shining a dazzling laser light at the aircraft from her bedroom window.

Ignorant Abby Arnison stupidly decided to see how far the light from the laser pen could reach by beaming it at police helicopter India 55, which was flying above Hartlepool late at night.

The aircraft observer, who accompanies the pilot, noticed the light bouncing around the cockpit.

Hartlepool Magistrates’ Court heard that the officer informed the pilot, who then quickly took evasive action and turned the helicopter around to avoid being dazzled and getting into any potential difficulty.

But when 21-year-old Arnison persisted in spot-lighting the copter and putting the crew in danger, they informed their colleagues on the ground and she was arrested.

Prosecuting, Alan Davison told justices: “It was about 11.15pm when the police helicopter was flying above Hartlepool when the observer noticed that someone was shining a laser into the aircraft which was bouncing off the screens and windows.

“He told the pilot who turned the aircraft away so it wouldn’t cause him any problems. They decided to report the matter, however, because of the persistent shining.

“Officers on the ground went around to the house where the light was shining from and she was good enough to come forward and admit she was the one shining the light.”

He added: “She told police she had been shining a laser pen at a helicopter and didn’t realise it was the police helicopter until they shone the search light into the property.

“She said she was ignorant at the time of any visual effect on the pilot and didn’t realise a light could reach that far.”

Arnison, who has only appeared in court once before five years ago for a dissimilar matter, appeared at court and pleaded guilty to shining a light at an aircraft in flight so as to dazzle or distract the occupants on August 21.

The court heard that if it had been the pilot who noticed the laser light then Arnison could have had her case sent to be dealt with by a judge at Teesside Crown Court and be facing a potential jail term.

Mitigating, John Relton said his client, who is a lone parent living in rented accommodation, had “no idea how serious her actions were”.

“She clearly knows now how serious it was and is mortified by what she did,” he said.

“Her actions were fairly innocent, playing with this pen which had been given to her. She was shining it to see how far it would go and the helicopter was the measure.

“This has caused her embarrassment and anxiety and I hope you take that as part of her penalty.”

Chairman of the bench Kate Brown fined Arnison, of Golden Meadows, off Seaton Lane, in Hartlepool, £70, ordered her to pay £85 costs and a £15 victim surcharge.

She told the defendant: “Spread the word, laser pens aimed at any sort of aircraft are dangerous and get you into very serious trouble,” to which Arnison replied: “I’ll never do it again.”

Today, Cleveland Police’s air operations manager Simon Wilkinson warned people about the dangers of directing lights at any aircraft.

He said: “People play around with lasers and when they shine them at an aircraft they don’t always appreciate how gravely dangerous this is and how difficult it makes it for the pilot to concentrate on flying.

“The lasers are very distracting and are a real safety hazard. No one should ever point a laser at any aircraft.

“The courts take these matters very seriously and we will always seek to prosecute people who take such irresponsible actions.”