Teenager Ben Carter spared jail for shining laser pen at police helicopter in Ashford search
Teenager Ben Carter shone a laser
at a police helicopter
by Paul Hooper
A teenager who repeatedly shone a laser pen at a police
helicopter while officers were searching for a missing man has
avoided going straight to prison.
But Ben Carter, 19, of Bentley Road, Willesborough, was told by
a judge: "I have dealt with many cases at this court... but this is
the most stupid."
Carter was given a six-month jail sentence - suspended for
two years - and ordered to do 100 hours of unpaid work for the
Canterbury Crown Court heard how he had targeted the chopper,
which was being used to help officers search for a missing person
from the William Harvey Hospital in August last year.
Carter had used the hand-held device to send a
laser beam (similar to one pictured right) into the cockpit,
dazzling the pilot and those onboard.
Prosecutor Matthew Turner said: "Captain John Atkinson, the
pilot, told he was involved in a search of a local hospital where a
vulnerable person was missing.
"PC Knightley, who was onboard, was hit in the eye by a laser
that came from the ground.
"He protected his eyes because of the discomfort. The helicopter
then had to move away.
"Then the beam was shone directly into one of the pilot's eyes
and caused him a few minutes loss of night vision and some blurring
of his vision for some hours after."
The helicopter search was then called off – but not because of
Carter's actions, the court heard.
Trainee tree surgeon Carter, who lives with his mother, pleaded
guilty to recklessly endangering an aircraft and the people
Duane Bridger, defending, said Carter told police he was "just
"He didn't appreciate at the time how dangerous it was. He does
now. Fortunately it wasn't his actions which caused the search to
be called off. That was due to the helicopter being low on fuel."
"What if that helicopter had crashed and what would have happened if it killed someone? It would have been your fault..." – Recorder Bobbie Cheema QC
The judge, Recorder Bobbie Cheema QC, told Carter: "To have a
young man like you, who has never been in trouble with the police
before, doing something which could have resulted in the death of
an experienced pilot and police officer is a an utterly reckless
thing to have done and I would be justified in sending you to
"You had a laser pen and you pointed it directly at a helicopter
- even though it was only for a matter of seconds. But during those
seconds it shone into the eyes of a police officer and then into
the pilot's eyes.
"It must have been utterly frightening to both of those people.
The grave danger is immediately obvious to any sensible person.
What if that helicopter had crashed and what would have happened if
it killed someone? It would have been your fault."
The police helicopter was searching for a 44-year-old man who
had gone missing from the William Harvey Hospital, Ashford.
There had been concerns for this welfare after he disappeared
without taking his medication.
The man was found alive in Bexhill-On-Sea more than a week
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