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Man sentenced for laser attacks on aircraft

A man has been jailed after admitting to shining lasers at an aircraft.

Andrew Wilson, 53, of Martock, Somerset, was sentenced to four months imprisonment at Taunton Crown Court on Thursday 11 April.

At an earlier hearing he had admitted two counts of directing a laser beam at an aircraft, an offence under the Laser Misuse Act 2018.

On the first occasion, at about 11.20pm on Thursday 3 August 2022, he targeted a helicopter flying over Yeovil.

The second incident, at about 11.55pm on Monday 14 August, involved an Airbus A320 passenger plane flying over Yeovil on its descent to Bristol Airport, with almost 200 people on board.

Thankfully both aircraft were able to make a safe landing.

One of the plane pilots stated in a personal statement read to the court that the laser attack happened during a “critical stage” of the flight.

They said: “You can see how distractions and disturbances from laser attacks are dangerous whilst the pilots are required to be totally focused … Laser attacks on aircraft also have the ability to temporarily ‘flash blind’ … Rendering one or both pilots blind whilst they are flying is obviously extremely dangerous.”

They added that such laser attacks can lead to retina damage and long-term degradation of eyesight which could cost a pilot their career, in view of the strict medical requirements for a pilot’s licence.

Officer in the case PC Jason Marshalsea said: “Shining a laser beam at an aircraft is dangerous and irresponsible and could result in catastrophic consequences. Wilson not only jeopardised the eyesight of several pilots, but he also unnecessarily and recklessly endangered the lives of hundreds of innocent people on those aircraft.”