Derry ‘laser pen’ man faces jail

A 20-year-old Derry man who admitted shining a laser pen at a police helicopter was told today that he faced the possibility of a ‘lengthy custodial sentence.’

Patrick White of Old School Lane in Derry pleaded guilty to endangering an aircraft on April 24 last year.

According to reports prepared on White he had told probation he had been smoking cannabis since he was aged 7 and that he had ten joints a day. It was said the night of the offence he was under the influence of drugs.

The court heard that at 10.25 p.m. a police helicopter had been in transit and flying at between 1500 and 2000 feet when the pilot was dazzled by a green laser light on several occasions.

The pilot was forced to fly away from the light but the observer was able to identify where the light was coming from.

Police on the ground were alerted and White was arrested at his home.

At interview he told police his father had told him to stop but he had not.

Judge Piers Grant said that White had expressed regret but it seemed to him to be after he was caught.

A forensic report on the device, which is illegal to have in this country, found that it was defective and Judge Grant expressed concern that possibly White had handed over a different device but was told both the defendant and his father had co-operated with police.

Defence counsel Mr. Kieran Mallon said his client was in no doubt this was a ‘very, very reckless and a very, very stupid offence.’

At interview White had admitted he could have brought an aircraft down and the judge said if it had crashed in a residential area the los of life ‘could have been enormous.’

Mr. Mallon said the courts were obviously concerned with this sort of activity and the judge told him that a custodial sentence was ‘in the forefront’ of his mind.

The judge asked about the defendant’s use of cannabis and said it was an issue of ‘very real concern’. He added that he was adjourning he case for full reports on White’s drug rehabilitation and his mental health.

He said people who do these things endangered not only the aircraft but people on the ground and told White he would have been responsible if there had been a crash.

The case was adjourned until June 28 to allow reports to be prepared.