Hatfield man jailed for eight months after shining laser pen at police helicopter

PUBLISHED: 13:21 26 July 2019 | UPDATED: 09:12 29 July 2019

St Albans Crown Court. Picture: Danny Loo

St Albans Crown Court. Picture: Danny Loo

Archant

A Hatfield man was sentenced to eight months in prison on Tuesday for shining a laser pen at a police helicopter.

Madalin Mihele, 30, of Chilterns, was sentenced at St Albans Crown Court after pleading guilty to recklessly or negligently acting in a manner likely to endanger an aircraft or person in an aircraft.

On November 4, 2018, the National Police Air Service (NPAS) helicopter was looking for a vulnerable person in Hatfield who they believed to be at risk.

While searching, the helicopter crew saw a heat source which they thought could be the missing person.

But as the police moved closer, the court heard how laser strikes began to hit police officers.

The pilot told colleagues not to look and shielded his eyes from the laser by using his shoulder and elbows.

Despite the disorientation effect and the risk of injury from the laser, the crew guided officers to the ground.

After finding the missing person safe, the officers turned their attention to where the 'laser attack' came from.

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Police found it was an address in Chilterns and officers on the ground arrested Mr Mihele.

Detective Constable Paul Saunders said: "All three members of the crew suffered injuries including headaches as well as streaming and sore eyes.

"Thankfully, the injuries were short-lasting, but these still required hospital treatment on the night - with further follow-up appointments.

"Not only did Mihele endanger the crew and lower the chances of safely finding the missing person, but the helicopter was flying over a densely populated area and, had it crashed, it would undoubtedly have injured or killed a lot of people.

"In addition to the custodial sentence, Mihele has been ordered to pay a fine of £140.

"I hope that Mihele spends his time behind bars reflecting seriously on his actions that night.

"While playing with laser pens might seem like harmless fun, this case demonstrates that they can have very real dangers. Anyone tempted to engage in the sort of behaviour that Mihele did should certainly think twice, or else run the risk of a prison sentence."

NPAS' south east assistant operations director Russ Woolford welcomed the sentencing.

"Our crew, and people on the ground, were put at risk by this reckless behaviour," he said.

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