Belfast Telegraph

Portrush man fined for shining laser at PSNI rescue helicopter

By Nevin Farrell

A camera on a police helicopter recorded a man, wearing only boxer shorts, shining a laser from a bedroom at the aircraft as it searched for a vulnerable missing person at Portrush.

The details emerged at Coleraine Magistrates Court on Monday where Christopher McCrory (30), of Glendun Close, Portrush, admitted a charge of endangering the PSNI chopper.

He pleaded guilty to recklessly or negligently acting in a manner likely to endanger an aircraft, or any person in an aircraft.

On July 19 this year the police helicopter was targeted during a search and rescue operation.

The helicopter was searching cliffs near Portrush, along with the Coastguard and Portrush RNLI lifeboat.

Despite McCrory's intervention, the missing woman was safely found.

A prosecutor said at 12.30am on July 19 a police helicopter was 700ft above Portrush taking part in the search for a "vulnerable missing person".

She said the pilot and two other personnel onboard "had to avert their eyes" when the green laser was shone at them.

The prosecutor said the chopper's camera recording system located the laser being shone from the rear upstairs room of a house and a male could be seen wearing only boxer shorts.

The male then opened the back door and directed the laser twice more at the helicopter, the court was told.

Police went to the house at 1.10am where McCrory was with his mother and girlfriend.

McCrory initially told police "there were two boys in the back garden shining lasers".

Police recovered the "end cap" of the laser.

McCrory admitted the charge at court where his defence solicitor, John Murphy, said his client is on benefits and suffers from "anxiety and depression".

The lawyer said somebody brought the laser home from Spain and gave it to McCrory and he "stupidly decided to use it" against the police helicopter.

Mr Murphy said, thankfully, "there was no lasting damage" done to the eyesight of those on the helicopter as "they averted their eyes" and the helicopter was also able to turn around to ensure no more difficulties were caused by McCrory.

District Judge Peter King said such offences will always be detected because the helicopter is equipped with a camera.

Fining the defendant £350, he said his sentencing powers in the case were "ridiculously light".

He added: "I can only impose a financial penalty and that does not mark the gravity of the offences".

The judge said it was "bizarre" he could send people to prison for offences like drinking on the street "but not for shining a laser at a helicopter".

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