Man pleads guilty to aiming laser at Gatwick aircraft

A man has been fined after a laser was shone at an aircraft at Gatwick.

Paul Bennett, 25, of King George Avenue, East Grinstead, pleaded guilty at Crawley Magistrates’ Court on January 3, 2013, to directing or shining a light at an aircraft in flight so as to dazzle or distract the pilot on October 14, 2012.

Police received a report from an aircraft approaching Gatwick Airport that a laser had been shone at the pilot At around 9.35pm.

A helicopter from the National Police Air Support attended the area and it was also targeted by a laser. It was able to identify that the laser was being shone from an address in King George Avenue, East Grinstead, police said.

Inspector Mark Callaghan of Gatwick Police said: “Directing laser devices towards aircraft in flight to dazzle or distract the pilot is a criminal offence as it represents a considerable threat to the lives of the people on board and on the ground.

“This is just one of a number of successful prosecutions the police has brought to court. Significant sanctions have been imposed in some cases, including jail terms.

“These are not toys and we would appeal to parents to be aware of the dangers lasers pose and discourage their children from using them.”

Bennett was fined £350, ordered to pay £85 costs and a victim surcharge of £35.

The Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) reports that there were 1910 reports of laser incidents against aircraft in 2011 in the UK. During the same period in Sussex there were 30 reported incidents against aircraft approaching Gatwick.

The figures for 2012 are currently being compiled by the CAA.