A father who shone a laser at a police helicopter claimed he was trying to find a dropped cigarette.
Matthew Davies, 33, of Mornington Meadows, Caerphilly shone the laser at the helicopter from his back garden at around 3am on March 17 this year.
Pilot Robert Humphries and three other officers were investigating a burglary when the laser beam hit the National Police Air Service helicopter.
A court heard Mr Humphries was distracted by a “persistent and deliberate targeted” laser beam on the aircraft for between 15 and 20 minutes.
Prosecutor David Pinnell said the laser “dazzled” Mr Humphries and prevented him from seeing the controls of the helicopter struggling in poor weather and night-time darkness.
Mr Pinnell said: “As a result of this there was a significant risk of a collision endangering those on board and others due to the aircraft being positioned above a built-up residential area.
“The crew donned laser goggles and Mr Humphries broke off the operation he was engaged in to reposition the helicopter and minimise the effects of the laser.”
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The crew had to abandon their mission probing a raid on a Travis Perkins builders yard.
But officers used infra-red and heat detection cameras to pinpoint the laser to a house at Mornington Meadows.
Mr Pinnell said: “Officers went to the rear and front of the property and saw the defendant, outside in his garden, who was still directing the laser towards the helicopter.
“An officer shouted: ‘Stay where you are’ but the defendant went into the house and was met by another officer who came in through the front of the house.
“The officer noticed an object that was black with a red tip which he believed to be the laser and was seized.”
When arrested Davies said: “I did not aim it at the sky.”
In his police interview he claimed he was having a cigarette in the garden at the time.
Davies, who has previous convictions for theft, battery, resisting a police officer and criminal damage, claimed he had dropped a cigarette and was using the laser to look for it for a period of two minutes.
He later pleaded guilty to shining or directing a laser beam onto a police helicopter.
Defending barrister Emma Harris said his actions were “stupid and foolish” and he had shown remorse.
She said: “It was a reckless act and he was using a device he did not think would have the consequences it could have had.”
Judge Michael Fitton QC said: “You were putting individuals in the aircraft at risk of personal harm. The vision of the pilot was impaired and there was significant risk of an accident.
“It was obvious to those four inside the aircraft over a built-up area that the consequences would have been devastating to those on board if they lost control.
“You started acting recklessly and the account you gave the police that this was some sort of accident was nonsense. The fact you could contemplate acting in that way for 15 minutes frankly beggars belief.
“You’re old enough to know better. You haven’t learned from your previous behaviour and it has to be seen to be an immediate term of imprisonment.”
Davies was sentenced to seven months imprisonment at Cardiff Crown Court. he will serve half the term before being released on licence for 12 months.
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