Helicopter laser prankster condemned

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The Independent Online

A woman who dazzled a police helicopter pilot by shining a laser beam into the cockpit "for a laugh" was condemned for her behaviour today.

Natasha Forster, 21, shone the powerful green laser into the cockpit of the Surrey Police helicopter as it responded to a call out earlier this month.

The brightness of the laser meant pilot Mark Tuson had to look away briefly as he flew the helicopter in Staines, Middlesex, relying on the aircraft's instrumentation to steer it.

He was flying at higher than 1,000ft when the laser beam was shone several times just before midnight on August 10, and said there could have been "catastrophic" consequences.

The crew were able to pinpoint the source of the laser, which led to Forster, formerly of Pavilion Gardens, Staines, and now of Rochester Avenue, Feltham, Middlesex, being arrested.

When questioned by police, she told them she had shone the laser "for a laugh".

She was given a six-month sentence, suspended for two years, at Staines Magistrates' Court yesterday after admitting endangering an aircraft. She was also ordered to carry out 180 hours of unpaid work. An order for the laser to be destroyed was made.

Inspector Steve Cheeseman of the Surrey Police Air Operations Unit said: "Laser pens can be very powerful and to shine one into the cockpit of any aircraft during flight is extremely dangerous.

"It could easily blind or distract the pilot and puts everyone on board at risk.

"The sentence handed out sends a clear warning to anyone else considering such reckless behaviour."