Friday, October 19, 2007

Peeping Tom's from a 'copter

EASTBOURNE The crew of a Ministry of Defence (MoD) helicopter broke low-flying rules, causing hundreds of thousands of pounds worth of damage to a Sussex mansion, so that they could spy on an au-pair who was sunbathing, the High Court was told yesterday.

Barry and Anna George, owners of the Old Stables, in Eastbourne, East Sussex, claimed that the 14-tonne Merlin hovered at lower than 500ft (152m) so that the crew could “communicate” with their au-pair. The couple’s barrister, Daniel Crowley, said that the downdraft damaged their glass conservatory. The Georges are claiming £250,000 in damages for what Judge Jonathan Foster, QC, described as an “alleged frolic”. The eight-day case is likely to generate hundreds of thousands of pounds in legal costs. If the MoD loses, the taxpayer will foot the bill.

James Maxwell-Scott, for the MoD, said that the ministry denied all liability. He said a chart the pilot was using did not indicate that he needed permission to fly low. The case is to return to court in February.

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