Man who shone laser pen at Clutha police helicopter pilot jailed

Lochrie shone a laser pen at the Police Scotland helicopter piloted by David Traill the day before he lost his life in the Clutha tragedy. Picture: Toby Williams

Lochrie shone a laser pen at the Police Scotland helicopter piloted by David Traill the day before he lost his life in the Clutha tragedy. Picture: Toby Williams

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A BUDDHIST lecturer who shone a laser pen at the Police Scotland helicopter piloted by David Traill the day before he lost his life in the Clutha tragedy has been jailed for 14 months.

Colin Lochrie, 31, targeted the chopper as it flew over his west end home heading back to the heliport on November 28, 2013.

Captain Traill was forced to take evasive action to save his vision being affected by the green light that repeatedly lit up the cockpit.

Those on the helicopter were able to alert police on foot and Lochrie was lifted.

He admitted shining the Amazon bought pen at the aircraft and told officers “I wanted to see what it was doing”.

On November 29, 2013, 10 people lost their lives including Cpt Traill when the Police helicopter crashed into the Clutha Vaults pub beside the River Clyde.

At Glasgow Sheriff Court Lochrie, from Knightswood pled guilty to culpably and recklessly directing the laser beam at the helicopter to the danger of the lieges.

Yesterday sheriff Bill Totten told him: “I wish to emphasise that this is not a case in which Mr Lochrie made a deliberate attempt to impair the pilot’s vision.”

He told him that he did deliberately shine the laser beam at the helicopter and has accepted his guilt and “there is a clear need to punish anyone who commits this serious crime”.

Lochrie was jailed for 14 months reduced from 18 months for pleading guilty.

The court heard that the helicopter was returning from a task in the Dumbarton area and flew over the west end of Glasgow.

Constables Niall McLaren and David Graham were on board at the time around 4.45pm.

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Procurator fiscal depute Mark Allan said: “They became aware of the green laser light beam being directed towards the helicopter, whereby the light beam repeatedly illuminated the cockpit of the helicopter causing the pilot to take evasive action.”

The court was told Cpt Traill reacted so as to avoid the beam impairing his vision.

Mr Allan said: “The potential danger in that act would be obvious to the court, a situation where a pilot in mid-flight whose vision is distracted, potentially impaired sight of the pilot who has instrumentation and the likes.”

Footage from the police helicopter was played to the court showing a green laser light being repeatedly shone towards the cockpit.

The court was told: “Information was passed from those within the helicopter to those who were on foot patrol locally.

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“They were able to identify a particular room within a tenement block at Cecil Street in the west end of Glasgow.”

Lochrie answered the door to the police and told officers “I was shining the laser at the helicopter because I wanted to see what it was doing.”

He handed over the laser and said “It wasn’t meant to put people in danger” and was arrested.

Mr Allan said that the pilot tragically lost his life a very short time later after this incident.

Defence lawyer Ian McLelland told the court: “His position is he heard the helicopter and thought something may be happening and used the pen in an effort to see that more clearly.

“He had bought the pen from Amazon as he used it when he occasionally gave some lectures to friends in relation to Zen Buddhism.”

Mr McLelland added: “He always presents as somewhat eccentric both in the person and in thought processes.”

The court heard Lochrie wanted to see the helicopter and was not trying to distract the pilot and he “deeply regrets not having had the foresight not to have done it.”

On the last occasion when the case called sheriff Totten told Lochrie: “The tragedy one day later demonstrates what can happen if for any reason a pilot can not maintain full control of his aircraft when it’s flying over the city.

“That has to include the pilot being able to read all of his instrumentation without distraction and take appropriate action without delay to what that shows and for that reason, this is a serious matter.”

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