A 21-year-old woman who shone a powerful laser into the cockpit of a police helicopter “for a laugh” has been ordered to carry out 180 hours' community service.

Natasha Forster, of Rochester Avenue, Feltham, aimed the beam at the aircraft, which was flying at more than 1,000ft, forcing the pilot to look away from the windows.

Pilot Mark Tuson said the distraction of the light flooding the cockpit could have had catastrophic consequences.

The helicopter crew was responding to a call-out in Staines just before midnight on August 10. The two officers in the helicopter were able to pinpoint Forster, who repeatedly shone the beam at them, and directed ground units to the arrest her and seize the laser pen.

It led to Forster, who now lives at Pavilion Gardens, Staines, being sentenced at North Surrey Magistrates’ Court on Tuesday to a six-month suspended jail sentence after pleading guilty to endangering an aircraft.

Inspector Steve Cheeseman, of the Surrey Police air operations unit, said: “Laser pens can be very powerful and to shine one into the cockpit of any aircraft during flight is extremely dangerous. It could easily blind or distract the pilot and puts everyone on board at risk.

“The sentence handed out sends a clear warning to anyone else considering such reckless behaviour. Endangering an aircraft is a criminal offence and it will not be tolerated.”