Sunderland man fined after shining laser at police helicopter

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A MAN shone a laser pen which dazzled police helicopter pilots on a call-out over Sunderland.

The Northumbria Police chopper had been flying over the city centre to investigate a disturbance around the Bridges shopping centre, in the early hours.

But the pilots on board were distracted by a green light shone from the Red House area, magistrates were told.

Officers went to the home of Joseph John Middleton, which they had identified as the source of the light.

They arrested the 54-year-old, who said: “Search my house. I haven’t even done anything.”

Prosecutor Lee Poppett said the officers searched the kitchen and found a laser pen in a white laundry basket.

After initially denying the charge of shining the light at the helicopter on September 13, Middleton, of Redmond Road, admitted it.

Solicitor Kate Meek said her client had not intended to shine the light in the direction of the helicopter and usually used it when taking his pet dog for walks.

She said the problem was “completely accidental” and caused a “minimal level of distraction” to the pilots.

She added: “He lives on his own and has mental health difficulties.

“He also receives employment allowance and his finances are limited.

“He wants to pass on his great apologies for the inconvenience caused.

“It was an absolutely accidental act on his part.”

Middleton also pleaded guilty to a charge of absconding, after failing to meet his bail conditions.

Chairman of the bench Carol Robson told his: “I hope you realise how silly you have been.

“You are lucky you are not facing more serious charges, but we are going to give you a fine.

“It could have been up to £2,500, but we have to take into account your circumstances.”

Middleton was fined £300, and ordered to pay court costs of £100 and a £15 victim surcharge.

Neighbourhood Inspector Tony Carty, of Northumbria Police, said: “Anyone shining a laser or light at an aircraft should be aware they’re not only causing significant danger to pilots and passengers, but they’re also committing a criminal offence.”

Twitter: @davidallison88