Blue singer Lee Ryan attempts to overturn flight assault conviction
Singer Lee Ryan has appeared at court to appeal against his conviction for drunkenly assaulting a police officer during his arrest for telling a black flight attendant: “I want your chocolate children.”
A hearing in January this year was told the singer, 39, was “slurring his words and staggering around” after drinking a 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.
Police footage showed Ryan “snarling” and swearing at a Pc Bryett after allegedly biting a Pc as officers attempted to arrest him on his arrival at the airport.
He was found guilty at Ealing Magistrates’ Court in January of racially aggravated common assault by beating and behaving in an abusive way towards the cabin crew member, while pleading guilty to assaulting a police officer by biting him.
But appearing at Westminster Magistrates’ Court on Tuesday, he appealed to overturn the plea, claiming he had received bad advice from his solicitor Mike Rainford.
Keima Payton, representing Ryan, told a magistrate that her client suffered from autistic spectrum disorder and had “slow processing skills” leading to “impairments in understanding what is said to him”, according to a psychological report.
She said that text messages sent by Ryan on the day of the hearing showed that he was made to feel like he “had to” plead guilty by Mr Rainford, “even though he (Pc Bryett) had me by the neck”.
Ms Payton said that body-worn footage which might have helped Ryan claim self-defence had not been presented to him until shortly before his court appearance, meaning he was unable to properly consider it.
Giving evidence on Tuesday, Ryan said he initially denied assaulting the police officer at a hearing in November where he admitted to being drunk on an aircraft, saying: “I didn’t do it – I didn’t bite him. That’s why I pleaded not guilty.”
He said that, in the weeks which followed, his solicitor assured him that the assault charge would be dropped before the next hearing.
“I found him quite dismissive and rude, quite condescending,” Ryan said.
On the morning of his next hearing in January, scheduled for trial, he said he was shown a video showing him in an altercation with a police officer which he had been “begging” Mr Rainford to see “for months”.
He said his solicitor made him feel like he had “no choice” but to plead guilty after watching the video.
“I asked him if there was more time because it felt so rushed, and he said there was no time,” Ryan told the court.
“It had become very clear that he either didn’t care or just wasn’t prepared.
“I realised Mike wasn’t great. He wasn’t doing his job properly – there were warning signs.”
Describing the moment he pleaded guilty, he said: “I couldn’t believe the words coming out of my mouth.
“There was no conviction – it wasn’t true. I was being made to do it.”
When asked whether he assaulted Pc Bryett, Ryan said he was acting in self-defence, saying: “Who is that guy that died recently – George Floyd – because a police officer choked him?
“That’s what he (PC Bryett) did to me – he choked me. He tried to strangle me.”
The hearing continues.
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