Laser pointer offender disappears
A 39-year-old Hornby man who admitted shining a laser pointer at two aircraft approaching Christchurch Airport has gone to ground rather than face his sentencing at court.
Christchurch District Court Judge David Saunders issued an arrest warrant for Tane Hemopo, a builder, when he did not arrive for today's session.
Preparations were all in place for the sentencing but the judge said he had been told the Parole Board had issued an order for Hemopo to be recalled to prison to serve more of an earlier jail term.
Hemopo was still at large and could not be found.
Defence counsel Serina Bailey told the court she had been trying to contact him for the last two days without success.
Judge Saunders said his disappearance was "something of a surprise given the reference from his employer, and since he had been complying with his bail conditions and curfew".
Hemopo pleaded guilty in August to charges under the Civil Aviation Act of causing unnecessary danger to the two aircraft in the incident on April 5.
He admitted the charges after the Crown dropped Crime Act charges of shining the pointer with reckless disregard for the safety of others, which carry a 14-year maximum penalty.
Instead, the maximum penalties under the Civil Aviation Act are a fine of up to $10,000 and a year's imprisonment.
Hemopo pleaded guilty to causing unnecessary danger to the people aboard a Virgin Airlines passenger plane and a New Zealand Post Metroliner.
The incident happened about 12.30am, when Hemopo was at the Sign of the Kiwi on the Summit Road, on the Port Hills above Christchurch. He had a high powered laser pointer.
He pointed it at the tail of the Metroliner as it was coming in to land, and then at the airport control tower.
A few minutes later, he steadily pointed his laser at the Virgin Airlines flight which was inbound to the airport at about 20,000 feet, for about 20 seconds. The light struck the cockpit, dazzling the flight crew although it had little effect on them, the police said.
Hemopo then pointed it at the aircraft three times, for between 3sec and 15sec, as it was on its final landing approach, at about 4000 feet. The light entered the cockpit and the police say it put the flights at unnecessary risk.
Hemopo admitted pointing the laser but said he did not know it was dangerous. He denied aiming at the cockpit.