Police tracked laser shone at helicopter

AMY MAAS
Last updated 05:00 07/11/2012
the Eagle helicopter
Fairfax NZ
TARGETED: The Eagle helicopter became the focus of a laser strike.

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Police targeted by a laser shone into the cockpit of the Eagle helicopter tracked the alleged culprits down and sent a car to make arrests.

Joshua O'Hare-Knight, 20, and James John Spiers, 18, appeared in the Auckland District Court yesterday, charged with dangerous activity involving aircraft under the Civil Aviation Act.

The charges relate to an incident in May 2011, when police say the two men pointed a laser at the police helicopter from Asquith Ave, Mt Albert. Both have pleaded not guilty.

The court heard the Eagle helicopter was targeted by the laser light at least a dozen times around 11pm.

An officer in the helicopter at the time said he used a mapping system on board the aircraft to track where the laser was coming from, despite the dangers posed by it.

"We have sworn an oath and have a responsibility to the aviation community to keep the skies as safe as possible and we have to balance that with the need to keep ourselves safe," he said.

He started recording the laser strikes using the "Flir" camera system once the source was located.

A video taken from the helicopter, and shown in court, showed a group of around 20 people gathered on the back deck of the Mt Albert home. A laser is shone at the helicopter at least half a dozen times in the video from the left-hand side of the deck.

Police were dispatched to the address and removed two men suspected of shining the laser from the deck.

One of the men was dressed in a red shirt and a beanie. The other was wearing a black hoodie. Both were arrested and taken to Avondale Police Station where they were charged.

Defence lawyer Scott Leith argued a large number of people were gathered at the party and the Flir camera was unable to identify faces.

The jury trial, before Judge Nevin Dawson, is set down for four days.

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