Men found guilty of pointing laser at chopper

By Edward Gay

James Spiers (left) and Joshua O'Hare-Knight, during an earlier court appearance Photo / Brett Phibbs
James Spiers (left) and Joshua O'Hare-Knight, during an earlier court appearance Photo / Brett Phibbs

Two young men who shone a high-powered laser at the police helicopter, filling the cockpit with bright green light, have been found guilty.

Joshua O'Hare-Knight, 21, and James Spiers, 19, were found guilty in Auckland District Court on Friday of causing unnecessary danger to an aircraft.

The offence, under the Civil Aviation Act, carries a maximum sentence of 12 months in prison.

The jury returned late on Friday after hearing four days of evidence, including the crew of the police Eagle helicopter.

Crown prosecutor Asishna Prasad said in her opening address to the jurors that the pair had taken turns pointing the laser at the police Eagle helicopter about 11pm on May 7 last year while they were at an 18th birthday party in Auckland's Mt Albert.

"When they did this they had no regard for the consequences of their actions and the Crown says they are dangerous consequences," she said.

"The crew of a helicopter can't afford to be distracted when they are airborne because their ability to carry out their duties is compromised. They would have been unable to identify any hazards in that airborne environment."

She told the court the helicopter crew flew towards the direction the laser came from and it was pointed at them again, with each strike lasting about five seconds.

They saw a group of people sitting on the back deck of a house on Asquith Ave and arranged for a police car to visit the address.

Police asked the group who had shone the laser and, Ms Prasad said, Spiers admitted it was him, saying he thought it would be a fun thing to do.

She said O'Hare-Knight admitted owning the laser and said he didn't realise it was such an offence to shine it at a helicopter.

In a brief opening address, Spiers' lawyer Scott Leith said his client had never made such an admission.

"In the loud environment of an 18th birthday party some wires got crossed, the police made some assumptions and Mr Spiers, who was only 17 at the time, was arrested."

O'Hare-Knight's lawyer Rosemary Thomson said her client admitted to owning the laser, but he never pointed it at the aircraft.

The pair will be sentenced in February next year.

- APNZ

© Copyright 2014, APN New Zealand Limited

Assembled by: (static) on production apcf02 at 24 Oct 2014 23:26:34 Processing Time: 347ms