Man derailed police helicopter search after dazzling pilot with laser beam

Man derailed police helicopter search after dazzling pilot with laser beam

A theatre worker who wrecked a police helicopter search by shining a laser at the cockpit and dazzling the pilot has been spared jail.

Joel Martin, 22, blinded the officer manning the controls for up to 15 seconds after aiming the green beam from his bedroom window in Gloucester in the early hours of May 4.

Officers managed to track the source of the light to Martin’s home where his mum directed them upstairs. He admitted what he had done straight away and wrote a letter to the pilot conveying his apologies and ‘sincere regret’.

District Judge Bopa Rai imposed a six-month prison sentence, but agreed to suspend it for 18 months in light of Martin’s guilty plea, references put forward on his behalf and the fact that ‘we are in the middle of the coronavirus pandemic’.

Prosecutor May Li earlier outlined the facts of the case.

She told Cheltenham Magistrates’ Court the police helicopter was conducting a search when a green laser beam was directed at the cockpit.

Ms Li said: ‘The pilot was temporary blinded for some five to 15 seconds during which time he was unable to read his instruments and as a consequence he had to abandon the search.

‘As the helicopter turned around the laser was still be thrashed all over the helicopter.

‘However with the aid of the on-board cameras the source of the beam was located to a property in Stroud Road.

‘Officers attended the address and they were directed by Martin’s mother to the third floor bedroom.

‘Martin admitted in interview that he had consumed some alcohol and had been shining the laser beam at the stars when the helicopter came into view.

‘He has since written a letter of apology and fully accepts that his actions could have been very serious.’

In his letter, Martin said: ‘Last night I did the most stupid thing without thinking of the consequences and was rightly arrested.

‘I have felt nothing but remorse since and can’t believe how foolish I have been. All I have felt today is how I have let myself and my family down and how dangerous the consequences could have been.

‘I am writing this to offer my sincere apologies to the pilots concerned when I shined a laser pen at a Police helicopter flying over Tredworth area on May 4. I would like them to know how sorry I am.

‘I offer no excuse that I did a stupid thing without thinking of the consequences of my actions, although I am now having to face up to these consequences.

‘I have never been in trouble with the police before. I have been a scout for as long as I remember since six years old. This behaviour is not normal for me. It was an act of stupidity I am truly sorry for.

‘As I cannot apologise in person, please ask the police to pass on my sincere regrets for my actions to the force’s pilots.’

Defending, Tim Burrows told the court Martin, who has been furloughed from the Roses Theatre in Tewksbury, was ‘terrified’ at the prospect of a spell behind bars.

He added: ‘The experience has been very shameful for him.’