Laser pen being shone. Picture: Library image
A young man has been locked up after he put a police helicopter in danger by shining a laser torch at it from his bedroom.
William Rye, 20, was sentenced to four months in a young offenders' institution.
Maidstone Crown Court heard the Essex Police helicopter was hovering at about 1,000ft over Sittingbourne on April 17 when it was "illuminated by a green light".
The pilot, Captain Robert Mitchell, turned the helicopter in an attempt to avoid the beam - but strong winds made it impossible and the search had to be abandoned.
After identifying the general area from where the laser was being shone, thermal imaging was used to direct officers on the ground to Rye's home in Tonge Road, Sittingbourne.
"He was a young man in his bedroom playing with a laser torch," said Francis Lloyd, prosecuting.
When arrested, he admitted being the culprit but later claimed a young girl at the address was to blame.
However, a week before his trial Rye - described by his lawyer as "not perhaps the full ticket" - admitted to endangering the safety of an aircraft.
Mr Lloyd said although there was a potential for danger it was difficult to work out how dangerous Rye's actions were to the helicopter and crew, based in Boreham Wood.
A laser was shone at the Essex Police helicopter
"This is a case of a young man being very foolish and playing around in his bedroom rather than a malicious intent to do something very dangerous," he added.
Rye said in a basis of plea that he could not see the helicopter, but became aware of it when he heard the noise and should have stopped shining the light.
"I didn't intend to cause any harm," he said. "I have learning difficulties and ADHD. I am sorry for what I have done."
The court heard he had previous convictions for theft, common assault and possessing a prohibited weapon, a stun gun.
Judge Martin Joy sits at Maidstone Crown Court
Passing sentence, Judge Martin Joy said: "I have no doubt whatsoever that this offence is so serious that a non-custodial sentence cannot be justified.
"Those who commit this kind of offence must be aware that severe sentences will follow."
Adrian Rohard, defending, said a probation report described Rye as being very immature and not fully aware of the devastation and harm he could have caused.
"He didn't intend to cause any harm but accepts he was negligent," said Mr Rohard.
Describing Rye as "not perhaps the full ticket", he said Rye seemed to have an interest in gadgets.
He had completed 120 hours of 180 hours unpaid work for other offences and had enjoyed the work.
Submitting that the sentence could be suspended, Mr Rohard said Rye had acted negligently rather than maliciously.