A teen who temporarily blinded a police helicopter pilot with a laser pen has been handed a custodial sentence.

Dean Riley, of Cator Crescent, New Addington, shone the laser at the officer intermittently for about 10 minutes as the helicopter searched for suspects over Central Parade, in New Addington, on September 27 last year.

At Croydon Youth Court on Friday, the bench heard how the pilot suffered flash blindness and had to stop hunting the suspects while he recovered.

Riley was spotted by the pilot and officers on the ground duly arrested the 18-year-old, who had made off into Tropical Essentials off licence.

When they did they found the top of the laser pen in his pocket.

Pilot Captain Tooze was able to identify Riley as the person shining the laser but he initially claimed he was not involved and gave no comment during interview.

Prosecuting, Angela Williams, said: “What has become very obvious is what a serious problem laser light shining helicopters has become.

“The Civil Aviation Authority say it is a serious problem, it is dangerous and could cause a very serious incident.”

Defending, Mr Rollin said Riley was “extremely remorseful and regretful” over his actions and wanted to apologise for what he did.

Chairman of the bench Ray Stibbards said he had no choice but to hand down a custodial sentence due to the seriousness of the incident.

He said: “Thankfully the aircraft did not have to make an evasive landing but the pilot suffered blindness.

“He could have crashed and caused untold damage and injury.

“The court takes offences of this nature extremely seriously.”

Riley pleaded guilty on January 12 to wilfully obstructing Captain Lee Tooze in the execution of his duty and recklessly or negligently acted in a manner likely to endanger an aircraft or person in an aircraft.

On Friday, he was sentenced to a four month detention and training order, reduced from six for a guilty plea.

Laser pens are sold as office equipment, to point out details on presentations, but police said they were also potentially-dangerous weapons.

There has been a significant rise in the number of incidents involving laser pointers in recent years in the UK. From just 30 incidents reported in 2007, there were more than 1,600 in the first nine months of 2011.