A MAN who shone a laser pen at a police helicopter claimed he had been using the device to play with his cats.

Bolton magistrates heard how the Greater Manchester Police helicopter was flying over Warren Lever's home in Heaton when the pilot, Captain O'Brien realised a laser was being aimed at the aircraft.

Joseph Haughton, prosecuting, told how the pilot, with two officers on board, were airborne over Bolton just after midnight on September 14 last year.

"During this time they were persistently lasered from the upstairs window of a property with a green laser," said Mr Haughton.

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The helicopter directed officers on the ground to a house in Crosby Road.

"At this time the laser was still being directed at the helicopter," said Mr Haughton, who added that it took several minutes before police were allowed inside the house.

"The defendant admitted he was responsible for the incident and showed him where the laser had been hidden."

The laser pen was found hidden behind a bath.

Lever, aged 44, pleaded guilty to shining or directing a laser beam towards a helicopter.

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Michael Garstang, defending, said Lever and his then partner had been drinking.

"Not that that's a defence but it is a factor with regard to his not having the full faculty with regards to making the right decision," said Mr Garstang, who stressed that Lever quickly admitted what he had done.

Mr Garstang told the court that Lever, a father-of-two, had bought the laser pen from a market.

"He has cats and he bought it to play with them. That's what he was doing on that night — shining the light and the cat was jumping around," he said.

"But, of course, he then shone it outside and that's why we're here today. Nothing more sinister than that.

"It was a one-off situation. He is very, very sorry and he expresses his remorse for his actions."

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He appealed to magistrates not to jail Lever, who is due to start a new job with Bolton Plastics.

Magistrates decided to sentence Lever to 26 weeks in prison, suspended for 12 months and ordered him to undertake 120 hours of unpaid work plus 15 days of rehabilitation activities.

Chairman Martin Simpson told him: "Although you say you were larking about, this was a very serious offence that could have had very dire consequences, both to the crew of the helicopter and people on the ground if the worst came to the worst."

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