East Lothian man accused of targeting helicopter pilot with laser

A man accused of causing a police helicopter search for a vulnerable missing person to be called off by shining a laser beam into the aircraft has walked free from court.
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Prosecutors claimed Brian McPhillips directed targeted the helicopter as it circled over Whitecraig in East Lothian in March 2020.

Pilot Captain Nigel Clark said his aircraft came under attack four times while his police colleague PC Alistair Rennie said the incident could have had “devastating consequences” for all on board.

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A home in nearby Musselburgh was identified as the source of the light and when officers raced to the property they found McPhillips leaning out of an upstairs window.

A laser aimed at aircraft can have tragic consequences.A laser aimed at aircraft can have tragic consequences.
A laser aimed at aircraft can have tragic consequences.

A police officer told the trial at Edinburgh Sheriff Court when confronted McPhillips denied any involvement and had attempted to put the blame on his young daughter.

The court also heard the incident caused the aircraft to call off its part in the search for the missing person.

But following two days of evidence 50-year-old McPhillips, of Dunbar, was acquitted by a majority not proven verdict.

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Sheriff Alistair Noble thanked the jury members for their service and told McPhillips he was free to leave the dock.

ThCaptain Clark said the aircraft came under attack by a laser four times as he and two police colleagues flew over Whitecraig at around 9pm on March 24, 2020.

He told the court the bursts of green light “illuminated the cockpit” was “a distraction and a blinding issue” to him and the crew.

Camera operator PC Rennie said: “It could have had devastating consequences if the pilot cannot see. There is a possibility that the aircraft could crash.”