Kevin Griffiths shone laser at searching police helicopter
A man who "persistently" shone a laser beam at a police helicopter as it searched for a high-risk missing person has pleaded guilty to recklessly endangering the aircraft and crew.
Kevin Griffiths, 22, of Greenfield, Flintshire, flashed the pen 10 times at the aircraft in eight minutes.
Flintshire Magistrates Court heard his actions last September in a populated area could have been disastrous.
He was given a five-month suspended sentence and 200 hours unpaid work.
The court heard three people were on board the helicopter 1,200 ft (365m) above Greenfield searching for a vulnerable missing person.
The pilot had to take evasive action to avoid the beam.
The crew located the source of the beam after filming the attack and officers on the ground were sent to deal with Griffiths.
Tracy Willingham, prosecuting, said the missing person was later found, but the crew had had to divert their attention away from the search.
Pilot Mitch Spicer told the court the attack was distracting and dangerous and could have damaged his eyes if the beam had struck him, causing him to lose his licence and livelihood.
"This is the same as a physical assault," he said.
The court heard Griffiths had never been in trouble before and was described as a hard-working young man.
Philip Lloyd Jones, defending, said Griffiths had bought the laser in Spain, adding: "It seemed to be common place for people to be buying this item and using them at night,"
He described the incident as "a foolish, impulsive and reckless action".
Speaking after the sentencing, National Police Air Service manager Ch Supt Ian Whitehouse called Griffiths' actions "stupid and reckless".
"When dealing with missing and vulnerable people time can be of critical importance.
"Shining a laser pen at an aircraft not only puts the pilot and the crew in danger but it can also delay the helicopter which may result in serious injury or even the loss of life.
Mr Whitehouse said they would deal robustly with anyone who uses lasers and puts lives at risk.
"What might seem like a game will result in them getting a criminal record. Real people's lives are at risk - this is not some kind of computer game."