A MAN from Chester is on trial accused of shining a laser pen at a police helicopter while it was in flight.
Richard James Brooks, 28, of Bridgeman Road, Blacon, appeared at Chester Crown Court yesterday charged with conduct likely to endanger life.
After a short trial, which concentrated on the reliability of the identification of the culprit, Judge Elgan Edwards told the jury of seven men and five women it was their job to decide whether Brooks was the guilty man.
There was no question, he said, that the consequences of the light being shone at the aircraft could have been “disastrous”.
The incident on August 11, 2012 happened while police were on duty.
The crew had been in the Hoole area when they were targeted by a laser from the direction of Blacon. When the attack persisted, the officers went to investigate.
Simon Parry, prosecuting, said on the night, trained air observer PC Ann Reed had located an individual who was shining the light from a garden at an address in Blacon.
Mr Parry said PC Reed, who was onboard the aircraft, had identified the perpetrator as a male of fairly heavy build who was wearing light clothing, a white T-shirt.
The crew of the helicopter directed police officers on the ground to the property where they found two females and two males.
“One of those was responsible for activating the laser,” said Mr Parry. “And the other male was wearing dark clothing.”
PC Reed had access to live footage in high definition as events unfolded. Recorded footage, which was shown in court, was of poorer quality.
He reminded the court that an expert witness had agreed that live footage would have been superior.
Mr Parry said the point that determined the identity of the person who shone the light was when the perpetrator headed back to the house.
“At that point the camera is in daylight mode,” Mr Parry said, “and you can see the person heading back – a figure in a light top.”
But defending counsel Mark LeBrocq said PC Reed’s evidence in court did not match what had been recorded at the time of the events.
In court, Mr LeBrocq said PC Reed had told the court she was 100 per cent confident Mr Brooks was the guilty party.
But he said on the soundtrack recorded that night, she was unable to pinpoint for officers on the ground which of the four individuals at the address was the individual she had observed.
Speaking to officers over the radio, Mr LeBrocq said PC Reed said: “It appears to be a male of fairly heavy build,” and then added: “I can’t give you more than that. I just saw the thermal image”.
Addressing the jury, Judge Edwards, the Recorder of Chester, referred to written evidence given by pilot captain Paul Bailey which stated that laser lights shone on aircraft could cause temporary blindness to the pilot.
“The consequences could be disastrous,” he said.
“There is no question it endangered the police. The question is: Are you sure it was the defendant?”
The jury went out late yesterday afternoon and were due to return this morning to consider their verdict.
See full story in the Chester Leader