© New Zealand Broadcasting School 2020

Man flies within 5 metres of 'terrified' family

Leighton Heikell
Louise Ternouth
Plane overhead
Microlight flies within 5 metres of family on a Barrytown beach, on the West Coast.  Supplied

A man who flew within five metres of a family on a West Coast beach has been banned from flying for six months and ordered to pay $4500 to a charity.

William Alan Weir was sentenced at the Christchurch District Court on Friday for the 'terrifying' incident in February last year.

Weir flew a microlight plane over the heads of Roger and Janette Reid, while they were camping on Barrytown beach on the West Coast in order to scare and intimidate them, Judge Stephen O’Driscoll said.

Judge O'Driscoll said Weir and the Reids had a history of animosity towards each other, but did not explain in more detail.

"While there may have been a history of animosity between you and the victims, your actions weren't justified. I hope you will put this behind you and get on with all others in your community in the future."

Judge O'Driscoll said while Weir made the decision to scare the couple in the spur of the moment, it would have been a "terrifying experience" for them.

"The altitude was such that any margin for error was practically non-existent. There was a potential for tragic circumstances to occur."

Defence counsel Eymard Bradley said Weir had been flying microlights for 35 years with no previous convictions.

He asked for Weir to be discharged, which Judge O’Driscoll ruled out.

The court heard the incident had divided the small community on the West Coast, but Judge O'Driscoll said the victims did the right thing by pressing charges.

He ordered the release of photos the Reids took, while the plane flew overhead, and said: "They [the public] can decide whether they would have been happy to be in the position of the Reids when your plane flew over them.”

Janette Reid told the media the sentence was a good outcome and the couple were okay after the incident.