A storeman’s recklessness could have taken out Lady Gaga and a host of other “A list” celebrities by downing a police helicopter with a laser pen, a court heard yesterday.
Crown Court Judge Geoffrey Miller QC said had the pilot been blinded, even momentarily, the consequences could have been fatal for those on board and “unimaginable” for those on the ground.
However, Judge Miller told a “foolish and unthinking” Aaron McCrory that he accepted his actions were more reckless than deliberate, and suspended his eight-month jail term for two years.
McCrory, a 28-year-old father of two, from Annsboro Street, Belfast, pleaded guilty to endangering the safety of a police surveillance helicopter as it patrolled the skies above Belfast’s Odyssey Arena as it hosted the MTV Awards on November 6, 2011.
Judge Miller told McCrory that as the helicopter circled above, “for reasons known only to yourself, you armed yourself with a laser pen and used that pen to point at the helicopter”.
The judge added that it should have been clear to McCrory, and must be made clear, that anyone acting as he did “effectively endangers the persons within that aircraft”.
“If the pilot had been blinded, even momentarily, the result for all on board could have been catastrophic and fatal, and given where the aircraft was, the consequences for those on the ground, you must appreciate, could have been unimaginable in its severity,” said Judge Miller.
Prosecutor Joseph Murphy told the court that McCrory had targeted the helicopter on several occasions. He said that there was a danger the pilot could have been distracted by the beam of laser light.
Mr Murphy said that, when questioned, McCrory blamed children in the street for shining the light. However, he eventually accepted his responsibility – but then handed over a different laser light, without any batteries, rather than the light he had been using.
Defence lawyer Richard McConkey said McCrory was not motivated by any animosity towards the police, nor had he targeted the helicopter as it was keeping watch on a riotous mob. This, he said, would have been a much more serious matter. “He effectively was messing about, and that was reckless,” explained Mr McConkey.