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Chopper used in broken window hunt


A police helicopter helped to track down window smasher Tom Clarke, 15

A police helicopter helped to track down window smasher Tom Clarke, 15

A police helicopter helped to track down window smasher Tom Clarke, 15

Police have defended themselves amid claims of heavy-handedness after using a helicopter and two officers to find a schoolboy who kicked a football through a greenhouse.

Tom Clarke, 15, was playing in a pub garden in Chalgrove, Oxfordshire, when a miss-kick sent the ball over a fence and into a glass pane next door.

Moments later a police helicopter which was flying in the area was spotted by an officer on the ground and asked to help find the culprit after the incident was reported by the greenhouse owner.

Tom apologised to the owner and will pay for the damage, according to Thames Valley Police, who said the case was treated as criminal damage. No arrests were made and no caution was issued but police said that any crime recorded could be used in an enhanced Criminal Records Bureau check if relevant to the job applied for.

Tom's father, Darrin Clarke, 42, accused officers of being heavy-handed, telling reporters that his son's "future work life is at risk because of a stupid accident playing football".

The TaxPayers' Alliance also questioned the appropriateness of the resources used.

Campaign director Emma Boon said: "With huge pressures on the police budgets there must be a more proportionate response to incidents like this. A kid accidentally kicking a football through a window should be a matter that neighbours can quietly resolve between them. It's sad that this was not the case in this instance."

Police said they would not scramble their helicopter for low-level crimes but that it may be asked to help by officers on the ground if already airborne nearby.

A police spokesman said: "Thames Valley Police works with limited resources and must ensure these are used appropriately. On this occasion, the crime had just occurred, therefore two officers were sent to deal with it.

"Thames Valley Police would not deploy the force helicopter for low-level crimes such as criminal damage. However, if the helicopter is already airborne and in the area they may be asked to assist by officers on the ground, as happened in this case."

PA Media