Drug user shone laser at police helicopter

A MAN suffering from cannabis-induced "psychosis" has been spared jail after he shone a laser pen at a police helicopter as it searched for a missing child, dazzling the pilot.

A MAN suffering from cannabis-induced "psychosis" has been spared jail after he shone a laser pen at a police helicopter as it searched for a missing child, dazzling the pilot.

Michael Crimp, prosecuting at Ipswich Crown Court, said Porter, 20, had been standing in the car park of Zest Nightclub in Ipswich town centre in the early hours of April 27 when he shone the pen, which he had bought several weeks earlier on eBay, at the helicopter

The pilot of the helicopter, Steven Cholerton had described the cockpit being illuminated by “an extremely powerful bright and blinding flash of green light” which caused him to veer off course.

At the time the helicopter was flying at 1,000 feet above the ground and as a result of the laser pen light filling the cockpit Mr Cholerton had been unable to see his instrument panel and had lost his visual references which were “paramount” to the safe operation of the helicopter.

Mr Crimp said the laser pen had been fired for a period of three to five seconds and at the time Mr Cholerton had been accompanied in the helicopter by two policemen who were acting as air observers.

Porter, of St Augustine's Road, Ipswich, admitted endangering the helicopter and was given a 20-week sentence of detention suspended for 18 months.

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He was also ordered to be under supervision for 12 months and banned from being in possession of a laser gun for 18 months.

He was also ordered to pay £250 costs.

The case involving Porter was the first time in Suffolk, and only the second time in the country, that someone had been prosecuted for the offence.

Sentencing Porter, who was only 19 at the time of the offence, Judge John Devaux said: “It is quite plain what the consequences could have been to both the occupants of the helicopter and those on the ground. At the age of 19 any normal person would have realised that.”

He said that Porter had been admitted to a psychiatric hospital on four occasions this year for “drug induced psychosis” brought about by his use of cannabis.

He had initially been admitted to hospital in February and had taken cannabis while on the ward. His second admission had been in April and he had been released on April 21 - just six days before the incident with the laser pen.

Porter had then been readmitted on April 30 and on his discharge had continued abusing illicit drugs before being readmitted again in early June, said the judge.

He said Porter's use of cannabis had had a “catastrophic effect” on his mental health and Porter had been aware prior to April that using cannabis resulted in an immediate relapse in his mental health.

“Drug induces psychosis is not an excuse for what you did - you knew what would happened when you took cannabis,” said Judge Devaux.

He said that although he had to pass a sentence of detention he felt able to suspend it because of the progress Porter had made since the commission of the offence.

“It is clear that a team of people have worked very hard to turn you about with some signs of success. The court would be very reluctant to destroy what had been achieved since June and July this year,” he added.

Neil Saunders for Porter acknowledged that what Porter had done was “highly dangerous” but said his client had pleaded guilty at the first opportunity.