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6 March 2019, 12:08 | Updated: 6 March 2019, 12:14
A 29 year-old man from Wellingborough has been sentenced to six months behind bars after he shone a laser pen at a police helicopter.
Voyslav Dimitrov (pictured) was arrested in Minerva Way, on Saturday, September 15, after a National Police Air Service (NPAS) helicopter was targeted with a green laser.
The helicopter had been flying over Wellingborough assisting Northamptonshire Police officers in the search for a group of men who were reported to have been carrying knives.
When Dimitrov shone the light at the cockpit of the helicopter, it filled with light which forced the pilot to turn away from the laser to protect the safety of his crew and to avoid being blinded. As a result of the incident, the crew could not continue their search for the men.
PC Dom Preece, who led the investigation, said:
"This incident could have been so much worse and it is thanks to the pilot, a man with over 20 years’ experience, that this did not end in a disaster.
As you can see in the video, the laser Dimitrov used a number of times on the aircraft was very powerful and the consequences had the pilot become disorientated are horrifying.
Dimitrov’s actions that night were completely reckless and dangerous and I am glad that he has been rewarded with a prison sentence. He endangered the lives of those inside the helicopter as well as the people on the ground and I hope his six months’ imprisonment will serve as a warning to others who may think it’s acceptable to shine a laser at any aircraft.”
There were 50 laser attacks on NPAS crews in 2018. This compares to 103 in 2015 and 70 and 67 the following two years.
Ollie Dismore, Temporary Accountable Manager of NPAS, said:
"Shining a laser pen at an aircraft can have catastrophic consequences so we welcome the court’s decision to impose a six-month prison term on this individual. For NPAS, while laser strikes are decreasing on our crews, we cannot stress enough how dangerous they are. Crews have protective eyewear to help reduce the effects of a laser strike but it’s still a dangerous distraction, and that creates safety concerns. We believe this sentence sends a firm message to anyone thinking of doing the same.
Dai Whittingham, Chairman of the UK Laser Working Group, said:
"I welcome news of a successful prosecution of an offence against the Laser Misuse (Vehicles) Act. Attacks against any form of transport are extremely dangerous, which is why Parliament decided to impose significant penalties for crimes of this nature. I share the Judge’s hope that the sentence on this occasion will be a deterrent for anyone else tempted to act irresponsibly with a laser device."