Two teenagers who put lives at risk by shining a high-powered
green laser into the cockpit of the police helicopter have
refused to apologise for their actions.
Joshua O'Hare-Knight and James Spiers, who were aged 19 and
17 when they offended, declined to say sorry outside Auckland
District Court today where they were sentenced to 300 hours
of community service between them.
The pair thought it would be a joke to shine the laser into
the Police Eagle helicopter while they were at an 18th
birthday party in Mt Albert in 2011.
They were told in court today that their recklessness could
have been "catastrophic".
As well as potentially blinding the crew, who were wearing
night-vision goggles, the laser could have distracted the
pilot to such an extent that it would have sent the
helicopter plummeting into the densely-populated suburb of St
To make their offending worse, the pair continued to shine
the laser at the helicopter as it orbited above them while an
on-board computer tracked the house where they were.
"The consequences of your offending could have been
catastrophic," Judge Nevin Dawson said.
"Not only for the crew of the helicopter ... but [also] the
residents of the densely populated area [below]."
It was submitted by a defence lawyer that O'Hare-Knight and
Spiers should face a lighter sentence because the potential
for harm was less significant than if they shone the laser at
a passenger jet because it carried more possible victims than
Judge Dawson said the argument was "a brand of logic I find
difficult to follow and I do not accept".
"If there had been the loss of lives in this incident,
families of victims would find no comfort in that reasoning,"
Judge Dawson said.
"The loss of lives is a tragedy to any concerned."
The pair were found guilty last year of causing unnecessary
danger to an aircraft.
Spiers was sentenced to 140 hours' community service and
O'Hare-Knight 160 hours.
Crown prosecutor Asishna Prasad said the pair took turns
shining the laser into the cockpit, flashing it at the
helicopter about six times for between five and 10 seconds
The chopper crew directed a ground patrol to where the laser
strikes were coming from.
Defence lawyer Scott Leith said Spiers was a "17-year-old
school student acting under peer pressure in a party
Mr Leith said his client had a clean record and he said the
court should "consider this incident for what it was and not
for what the Crown contends it could have been".
Judge Dawson said the sentence needed to deter others from
the same offending.
The number of laser strikes has significantly increased in
recent years, from 23 reported in 2007 to 100 reported in
"People need to get the message that this offending is not
just a foolish prank," Judge Dawson said.
Judge Dawson said there had been a degree of premeditation,
the actions were deliberate and persistent and there had been
"little remorse" shown by the men.
Outside court, O'Hare-Knight faced the media but would not
comment on the case or offer an apology for his offending.
His lawyer said: "It's been a long two years this journey.
We're just pleased it's over. He doesn't have anything
further to say."
Spiers would not answer questions from the media.
The New Zealand Air Line Pilots' Association said it
supported the sentences.