A man who admitted shining a laser pen into the eyes of a police helicopter pilot 2,000 ft over Derry forcing him to take evasive action has been put on probabtion for 18 months.
Patrick White (20), of Old School Lane, shone the device into the pilot’s eyes as he was in the Shantallow and Ballyarnett area.
White, who is unemployed, pleaded guilty to endangering the safety of the police helicopter when he appeared before Londonderry Crown Court yesterday.
The court heard he has subsequently been charged with an unrelated offence of possessing cannabis.
Defence counsel Ciaran Mallon told Judge Piers Grant that White has attended fifteen counselling sessions in a bid to address his drug problems. He has also been assessed as being in the bottom three percent of the population in terms of his verbal IQ and is “functionally illiterate”.
Judge Grant told White that during his 18 months on probation he must continue to attend counselling for substance addiction and take part in psychiatric and psychological assessments. He must also agree to random drugs tests.
At an earlier hearing in January, the court was told that White had been using cannabis since the age of seven.
The court was told that White was under the influence of cannabis when he dazzled the helicopter pilot on April 29 last year.
As the pilot turned away his cockpit observer was able to see the laser beam coming from White’s house. Police on the ground were contacted by the crew and White was arrested. Judge Grant was told the laser pen was forensically examined by the police who found it to be broken and without several battery parts. White used a penny coin to switch the laser pen on because the switch was faulty.
Describing White's actions as “unbelievable”, Judge Grant said the consequences could have been catastrophic if the helicopter had crashed into a residential area.