lue star Lee Ryan has narrowly avoided a jail term for drunkenly assaulting a black flight attendant and telling her: “I want your chocolate children”.
The singer, 40, was “slurring his words and staggering around” after drinking a whole bottle of port before a British Airways flight from Glasgow to London City Airport on July 31 last year.
After being refused more alcohol on the plane and told to return to his seat, Ryan made comments about Leah Gordon’s looks, calling her a “chocolate cookie” before grabbing her wrists.
At Isleworth crown court on Thursday, Judge Nicholas Wood sentenced Ryan to 12 months in prison, but agreed to suspend the jail term for the next 18 months.
“It’s totally unacceptable and disgraceful”, said the judge.
“Drunk on an aeroplane in mid-flight, albeit short haul, and racially aggravated assault on a member of cabin crew.
“It was only ten minutes, but it seemed like a lifetime to anyone else on that plane – apart from you.”
He added: “I think you are thoroughly ashamed of yourself.”
Ryan admitted being drunk on an aircraft and was found guilty after trial of racially aggravated common assault by beating and behaving in a threatening, abusive, or disorderly manner.
The judge saw psychological assessments of Ryan, and concluded he does not pose an ongoing risk to the public.
He ordered the singer to pay £2,500 compensation to Ms Gordon, £750 to another members of cabin crew, and £510 in costs.
At Ryan’s trial, Ms Gordon said the star initially called her “beautiful” and put his sunglasses on her face.
“He was making comments about my complexion, you’re my chocolate darling, my chocolate cookie, and I’m going to have your chocolate children”, she said.
She went on: “It felt like he was saying I was beautiful for a black person because of the way he was describing my colour.”
Ms Gordon said Ryan later approached her from behind, saying: “Before I get off this plane I need a kiss from you.”
After telling him to “stay away”, she said he grabbed both her wrists before passengers intervened.
“He was towering over me, like he was leaning in to give me a kiss”, she said. “He said to me ‘I want your chocolate children.’”
She added: “I was intimidated, I felt a bit embarrassed like I wasn’t doing my duty properly.
“To get comments about my colour whether intentional or not, it was just unacceptable and so derogatory.
“I just felt like it wasn’t fair and I shouldn’t have to put up with it.
“I don’t go to work to be assaulted or harassed.”
Ryan confessed to drinking a whole bottle of port and eating cheese in the British Airways lounge after the flight was delayed, and said he had no memory of the incident.
“My band member is black, I’m not racist, I’ve had black girlfriends, mixed-race girlfriends”, he told the court. “It was banter, just drunk banter I suppose, there was no malice or intention to upset anyone.”
The judge told Ryan there were “strong arguments” for jailing him, but psychological assessments into his ADHD and Asperger’s had helped to pursuade him to impose a suspended sentence.
Of the words used by Ryan, he added: “It may be the sort of language used in the entertainment industry, but that is somewhat of an indictment on the entertainment industry and it has no place on an aircraft, being directed at cabin crew.
“You know that and I think you have learned your lesson.”
He concluded that, thanks to the amount Ryan had drunk, the singer probably did not realise the impact he was having on those onboard the aircraft.
“If any good could come out of this, it has brought you to your senses”, said the judge.
Ryan will not have to fullfil any requirements of the suspended prison sentence, such as community service, as he currently lives in Spain.