East London man, 41, ‘dazzled’ police helicopter mid-chase with ‘very strong’ laser beam

By Staff

A police helicopter crew ‘dazzled’ with a laser beam said it was their ‘worst incident’ ever after man targeted them over East London. Paul Peter, 41, of Plashet Grove, East Ham, fired the powerful laser beam at a National Police Air Service (NPAS) helicopter on February 10 this year, breaking article 225 of the Air Navigation Order 2016.

Peter repeatedly apologised and said he had not realised how dangerous it was at Thames Magistrates on Monday, March 18. “I’m so sorry,” he said, hanging his head in shame.

The court heard a police helicopter had been in pursuing somebody else when it was blinded by a ‘very strong’ laser. While Peter did not cause a tragic accident, his laser attack was severe enough to distort the helicopter’s cameras. “The crew said they have been targeted before, but they said this was their worst incident,” the magistrate told the court. “It’s very very bad,” the prosecution added.

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Peter was arrested and charged with recklessly acting in a manner likely to endanger an aircraft. He pleaded guilty at Thames Magistrates’ Court on February 26.

While the court accepted Peter’s guilty plea, the magistrate said his sentencing powers were insufficient and committed Peter to the crown court where he faces a community order.

“This, bearing in mind the description of the incident, is more than a fine… Mr Peter, the case is too serious. You are going to the crown court,” the magistrate said.

‘Stupidity could result in fatalities’

NPAS has shared a number of laser incidents on social media, warning of the dangers to pilots and the serious consequences for anyone who is caught.

One NPAS post on X said: “Imagine being at the controls of a plane or helicopter and having a laser shone in your eye burning your cornea. The consequences of such stupidity could quite simply result in multiple fatalities.”

Last year two suspects were arrested after laser incidents over Hammersmith and Heathrow in October and November, while in July 2023 someone was convicted after a missing persons search had to be abandoned in Bromley due to repeat laser attacks from a nearby fishing lake.

People who target aircraft, road vehicles, or boats risk facing a 12-month prison sentence under the Laser Misuse Act 2018. Paul Peter was released on unconditional bail to appear at Snaresbrook Crown Court on April 15.

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