Northampton

Laser man jailed for risking 'catastrophic' helicopter crash

Laser beam Image copyright Thinkstock
Image caption A police helicopter had to abort a search for men carrying knives when it was targeted by the light

A man who risked a "fatal and catastrophic" crash when he shone a laser pen at a police helicopter has been sentenced to six months in prison.

Voyslav Dimitrov, 29, of Wellingborough, Northamptonshire, admitted endangering the aircraft at about 01:00 BST on 15 September.

It was searching an area of the town for three men carrying knives when the "dazzling" green light was shone at it.

Northampton Crown Court heard Dimitrov thought he was shining it at "a drone".

In total, Dimitrov, who pleaded guilty on the first day of his trial at Wellingborough Magistrates' Court on 29 January, targeted the cockpit of the aircraft three times with the laser pen.

Each time was for a duration of between three and five seconds, the court heard.

'Extremely ridiculous'

When the pilot was targeted for a third time, a camera caught Dimitrov shining the light from an address on Minerva Way.

The unrelated search for men carrying knives had to be abandoned, with the pilot - who was the only person on board capable of flying the helicopter - forced to take "immediate action" to avoid further strikes.

Defending Dimitrov, Liam Adam Muir, said his client accepted he had made an "extremely ridiculous" decision but was of previous good character and had been in continuous employment since moving to Wellingborough in May 2013.

But passing sentence at Northampton Crown Court, Judge Marcus Tregilgas-Davey said that despite Dimitrov's remorse, he risked a "fatal and catastrophic" outcome by targeting the helicopter with the laser.

Dimitrov was given a six month jail sentence, with Mr Tregilgas-Davey adding he hoped it would serve as a "deterrent".

Under the Laser Misuse (Vehicles) Act, introduced in May, people caught targeting pilots with laser pens can be jailed for up to five years and can be handed unlimited fines.

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