Man endangers police with laser

26 July 2019, 13:18 | Updated: 26 July 2019, 13:58

Herts Police

By Lillie Almond

It was shone at officers who were looking for a missing person.

A man has been sentenced to eight months in prison after shining a laser pen at a police helicopter as it searched for a missing person in Hatfield.

Madalin Mihele, age 30, of Chilterns, Hatfield, appeared at St Albans Crown Court on Tuesday 23 July, having previously pleaded guilty to a charge of recklessly/negligently acting in a manner likely to endanger an aircraft or person in an aircraft.

The court heard that on 4 November 2018, a National Police Air Service (NPAS) helicopter had been deployed to Hatfield to assist in the search for a missing person. Officers believed the person, who was vulnerable, was at immediate risk of harm.

Officers had been searching a densely populated residential area with nearby wooded areas that were difficult to search on foot alone.

Whilst the helicopter crew was searching, they came across a heat source of interest which they believed could have been the missing person.

As they began to concentrate on this area, they came under attack from numerous laser strikes from the ground.

The pilot moved his elbow and shoulder to shield his eyes from the laser and told colleagues in the helicopter not to look.

He was able to maintain his position and the crew guided officers on the ground, despite the disorientation effect and the risk of injury from the laser.

The missing person was safely located and the crew then turned their attention to the location where the laser attack was coming from. They identified that it was an address in Chilterns, which officers on the ground attended and found Mihele, who was arrested.

Detective Constable Paul Saunders, who investigated, 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.”

The NPAS crew had been dispatched from Lippitts Hill in Essex – one of 14 NPAS bases providing borderless air support to police forces in England and Wales. 

Russ Woolford, Assistant Operations Director for NPAS in the South East, said: “We welcome the sentencing of this individual, as it sends a clear message to anyone thinking of doing the same. Our crew, and people on the ground, were put at risk by this reckless behaviour.”