Laser-pointing Taiwanese tourist spared jail time

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A Taiwanese tourist who pointed a laser at a police helicopter during New Year’s Eve celebrations on Sydney Harbour has dodged a stint in jail.

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A Taiwanese tourist who pointed a laser at a police helicopter during New Year’s Eve celebrations on Sydney Harbour has dodged a stint in jail.

Yu-Wei Chang, 27, pleaded guilty last month to threatening the safety of an aircraft and possessing a laser pointer in a public place.

In North Sydney Local Court today, Magistrate Ellen Skinner sentenced Chang to two suspended sentences for pointing a 15cm laser pointer at Polair 2, hitting a crew member in the face.

The helicopter was monitoring crowds over Bradfield Park at Milsons Point when it was struck by the beam four times, in bursts of about three to five seconds each.

The beam caught Senior Constable Paul Begbie in the face while the chopper was hovering about 150m above thousands of spectators on the northern harbour foreshore at 9.30pm (AEDT).

In response, Polair 2 fixed its camera on the origin of the beam and threw a spotlight on Chang, who wasarrested by officers on the ground.

He initially attempted to represent himself in court with the aid of a Mandarin interpreter but sought legal assistance once he learned that each offence carried a maximum sentence of two years’ jail.

Magistrate Skinner noted that four similar court cases had been prosecuted previously. Three offenders were given jail terms and two got suspended sentences.

On the charge of act to threaten safety of aircraft, Ms Skinner sentenced Chang to three months’ prison, suspended immediately on the condition he pay $200 and enter into a 12-month good behaviour bond.

On the second charge of pointing a laser in public, Chang was sentenced to four months’ prison, suspended immediately.

Ms Skinner also ordered Chang pay court costs.

Chang’s visa expires in June but he expects to depart in April.

He had hoped to work in Australian tourism but resorted to fruit picking in Shepparton, Victoria, and lives in that area.

Outside court Chang expressed gratitude for the suspended sentences.

“Thank you Your Honour and thank you the Australian Government,” he said.

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