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Banker jailed for dazzling helicopter pilot

David Brown

A City banker who shone a high-powered torch at a helicopter while it was preparing to land was jailed yesterday after being told that he could have caused a catastrophe by blinding the pilot.

Aldous Voice, 31, beamed the five million candle power lamp from his kitchen window as the helicopter was landing on top of a nearby building on the Isle of Dogs, East London.

The foreign exchange associate director was jailed for four months after Judge Simon Freeland said that it was only the skill of Simon Mitchell, a former helicopter pilot in the Royal Navy, that averted disaster.

Voice admitted endangering the aircraft but claimed that he was using the lamp, which shines a beam for more than five miles, to disperse antisocial people from his estate.

Snaresbrook Crown Court was told that the helicopter was about to land on top of the Vanguard building in October 2006. The helipad often accommodates City figures who want quick access to Canary Wharf.

Toyin Salako, for the prosecution, said: “A bright light was shone into the cockpit; at that time it was dark outside and his cockpit was dimly lit. The light he [the pilot] described was so bright he was unable to see his instruments. He describes that the light into his cockpit made it difficult for him to land the aircraft safely. The light was steady and direct.”

It was accepted that Voice did not shine the light directly at the helicopter.

Judge Freeland told Voice: “Catastrophe was averted only by the skill of an experienced pilot. He was 130ft [40m] above the landing site when he was made aware of the bright light shining directly into the cockpit.

“It prevented him from seeing his instruments and, according to him, he could not see for at least ten seconds. His main concern was one of safety. It endangered the aircraft, himself and the people and property of the helipad below. Your actions showed disregard for the safety of the helicopter and its occupant.”

Justin Cooper, a detective constable, said: “He could have quite easily led them into the river or nearby blocks of flats.”

The judge said that the jail sentence would have been “years rather than months” had it been proved that Voice shone the light at the helicopter deliberately.

The court was told how Voice had a string of convictions for offences, including possession of a prohibited weapon, drink-driving and possession of the drug Ecstasy.

He pleaded guilty minutes before his trial was due to start. A second charge of endangering the safety of a helicopter on October 17, 2006, was ordered to remain on the file.

For the defence, Tyrone Belger said that Voice had turned his life around after a string of previous convictions, to become associate director at a top City bank. Mr Belger said: “He is a different person. He has become an employee in a bank and obtained first-class qualifications, including a degree and a masters.”

Prosecutors were granted forfeiture and destruction of the lamp after Voice asked for his torch to be returned to him.

In a statement, Voice’s solicitor said that his client accepted the “potential impact that his actions could have had on a passing helicopter. The court has imposed a sanction that reflects the more serious offences occurring on board aircraft or where actual damage resulted, neither of which applies in Mr Voice’s case. The court has imposed a disproportionate sanction and an appeal will be pursued.”

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