A teenager who could have killed a helicopter crew by shining a laser pen at them has narrowly avoided a custodial sentence.
The 17-year-old, who cannot be named, appeared at Medway Youth Court to be sentenced after previously admitting recklessly acting in a manner likely to endanger an aircraft.
The Kent and Essex helicopter crew's lives were put in danger, a court heard
He had been warned that he faced being sent to a young offenders' institution but instead was given a six-month referral order, during which he will be monitored by a youth panel.
The boy, who lives in Strood, was arrested after the crew of the Kent and Essex Police helicopter noticed the beam shining on the aircraft as it flew over Commissioners Road, Strood, in search of a burglary suspect.
The laser was shone directly into the front of the helicopter’s windscreen and the pilot had to steer away to avoid it. Other members of the crew managed to focus the craft’s camera and thermal imaging equipment to where the laser was coming from and identified three individuals walking near Rochester Cathedral.
They radioed officers on the ground who caught up with the three in the High Street at the junction of Corporation Street.
The court heard the three were approached by the officer and asked which one had shone the light. When they all denied it they were told they would be searched.
At this point the boy held his hand out and the laser dropped from his sleeve.
Laser pen being shone. Picture: Library image
The boy was arrested and admitted he had shone the laser at the helicopter and told police he knew it was painful if it was shone in people’s eyes.
This week magistrates gave him the referral order and he was also ordered to pay £85 court costs. The bench also ordered the laser pen to be destroyed.
Another 17-year-old boy, from Strood, who was also arrested at the time, got a youth caution for possession of drugs.
Offenders put on a referral order agree a contract with the youth panel which can include reparation to their victim, such as repairing any damage caused or making financial recompense, as well as undertaking a programme to address their offending behaviour.