Couple fined for laser-pen attack on police helicopter

'RECKLESS' ... Victoria Rayner and Robert Gilbert outside court.
'RECKLESS' ... Victoria Rayner and Robert Gilbert outside court.

A COUPLE from South Tyneside startled a police helicopter pilot with a laser pen while he was searching for a missing 11-year-old boy.

The aircraft was flying over Hebburn on the night of May 8 after the schoolboy was reported as missing.

The pilot said that the cockpit was suddenly filled with green light, startling him and his crew and causing them to change course.

Using night vision technology in the helicopter, he traced the source of the light to a window in Hedgeley Road, Hebburn, and sent officers to the door.

There they found Victoria Rayner, 18, and her boyfriend Robert Gilbert, 25, sitting on her bed.

The pair denied having a laser pen and when police tried to arrest them, Gilbert struggled and resisted the officers – who then found the gadget under the mattress.

Yesterday, both pleaded guilty to shining a light at an aircraft in flight, so as to dazzle the pilot, at South Tyneside Magistrates’ Court.

Gilbert, of Scarborough Parade, Hebburn, also pleaded guilty to resisting arrest.

Magistrates were told that the pair could not be sent to prison for the crime, meaning the heaviest sentence they could receive was a fine.

Gilbert and Rayner were each fined £100 and ordered to pay £85 costs and a £20 victim surcharge.

Glenda Beck, prosecuting, said: “The pilot found the source of the laser and alerted colleagues in Hebburn.

“They went to Rayner’s home in Hedgeley Road and explained why they were there to the person who opened the door.

“The couple were in a back bedroom, where the laser had come from.

“Both were asked if they had shone the laser and denied it.

“It was under the mattress where Gilbert was sitting.”

Mrs Beck told the court that during Gilbert’s interview with police, he said the laser was his nephew’s and he didn’t realise it was in his bag.

Laura Johnson, defending, told the court that both defendants were sorry and didn’t realise that the laser was powerful enough to reach a helicopter.

She said: “They were messing about and it went extremely wrong.

“They were trying to aggravate a dog in a nearby yard. They didn’t intend on shining at the helicopter.”

A statement from the pilot said: “I’m in no doubt that this was a direct laser attack on my aircraft.

“It caused a significant distraction and, had it happened during an emergency, it could have had serious consequences.”

After the case, Hebburn Neighbourhood Inspector Ian King, said: “Laser pens are not toys.

“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 committing a criminal offence.

“What people must understand is that this is a dangerous offence, which could cause a serious incident and puts lives at risk.”

Twitter: @ShieldsGazCrime