Man accused of endangering garda pilot with laser

A young man has gone on trial at Dublin Circuit Criminal Court accused of repeatedly flashing a green laser at a garda helicopter in a manner which could have caused the pilot to crash.

Anthony Gaffney (aged 25), of Cloonmore Avenue in Tallaght, has pleaded not guilty to the charge of endangerment, specifically behaving in a manner which could have caused substantial risk of death or serious harm to another person on September 12, 2009.

Captain Colm Duffy, a helicopter pilot with the Garda Air Support Unit told Mr Noel Devitt BL, prosecuting, that on the night of the incident he and his crew were called to the Blessington Road area of Tallaght between 12.30am and 1am to help in the search for a missing person.

He said when the aircraft was hovering at a height of 1,000 feet he was ‘dazzled’ by a green laser , which caused him to temporarily lose his vision and to remove his hand from the controls of the aircraft in an effort to block out the laser.

Capt Duffy said he was then forced to bring the helicopter to a higher altitude of 1,700 feet to combat the effect of the laser which continued to follow the aircraft.

‘When a laser hits windscreen it glares and makes it very difficult to see. I can’t fly the aircraft if I can’t see,” he said.

Detective Garda Adrienne Condon, who was a member of the crew on the night of the incident, told Mr Devitt that immediately following a green light hitting the windscreen of the helicopter she observed Capt Duffy raising his arm and looking ‘uncomfortable and distracted’

She said she then suffered pain to her eyes as well as a temporary loss of vision..

Video evidence, taken on night imagery equipment aboard the aircraft, was shown to the court which showed a green light coming from the back of a house which was later identified as being Mr Gaffney’s.

Garda David O’ Riordan agreed with Mr Vincent Heneghan BL, defending, that Mr Gaffney fully cooperated with gardaí and immediately apologised to the crew of the helicopter when the potential consequences of his actions were explained to him.

He also accepted that Mr Gaffney told gardaí that he did not recklessly intend to cause any harm, that he "made no attempt at evasion" and was at all times polite to the gardai.

In his statement to gardaí, which was read out in court Mr Gaffney admitted shining the laser at helicopter but claimed he was unaware of the harmful effect his actions could have.

He told gardaí: “I wasn’t trying to dazzle the pilot. I definitely didn’t mean to cause any hassle. I apologise for wasting police time”.

The trial continues before Judge Patricia Ryan and a jury of six men and six women.

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