Laser pointer to make donation

AMY MAAS
Last updated 16:03 28/11/2012

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A man who has pleaded guilty to shining a laser in the direction of the police Eagle helicopter will be discharged without conviction if he pays a donation to the Westpac Helicopter Trust.

Joseph Mark James Corban, 18, appeared at the Auckland District Court today for a disputed facts hearing after earlier pleading guilty to dangerous activity involving aircraft.

The incident happened on March 25, 2011.

Earlier today at a disputed facts hearing, Judge David Harvey told Corban he would not escape a conviction, however, in his decision he said he had to take into account the "fairness and equal outcome" with which Corban's co-accused was dealt with.

Corban's co-accused - a friend who was aged 16 at the time - was able to resolve the matter after going through a restorative justice meeting in which he apologised to the aircraft crew. He was also required to write a letter of apology.

As Corban was a few months older than his friend, he faced a criminal conviction with a maximum penalty of 14 years in jail.

"Mr Corban did not own the laser, and he was at a friend's house where they were fooling around as young people do. But there is a warning in this and it should never have happened," Judge Harvey said.

"He has learnt a sanitary lesson and I am sure he would not do it again."

The court heard from Eagle crewman Sergeant Alistair Grant who said the helicopter was lasered about 10 times, with each strike lasting about five seconds.

He said the effect of laser strikes was "dangerous" in that it could diminish the pilot and crewman's night vision.

"Our operation is not normal in that often we respond to emergency and critical situations and need to land in unusual situations and fly lower than 1000 feet."
 
Grant said after the strikes the crew used a mapping system aboard the aircraft to refine where the laser strike was coming from. Ground staff were then sent to a Mt Roskill address where Corban was located.

Judge Harvey said his decision to discharge Corban should not "set a precedent in future laser strike trials".

Corban will be discharged without conviction once he pays a $1000 donation to the Westpac Rescue Helicopter Trust.

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