Lee Ryan guilty of racially aggravated assault over ‘chocolate children’ comment

Blue star Lee Ryan has been found guilty of racially aggravated assault after drunkenly telling a black flight attendant “I want your chocolate children”.

The singer, 39, 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.

Police footage showed Ryan “snarling” and swearing at officers after biting one of them.

Lee Ryan court case
Blue singer Lee Ryan went on trial over the incident on a BA plane (Jonathan Brady/PA)

Ryan was found guilty of being drunk on an aircraft, assaulting a police officer by biting him, racially aggravated common assault by beating and behaving in an abusive way towards the cabin crew member.

The bench at Ealing Magistrates’ Court found the “racially aggravated element was proved” on Thursday afternoon.

The chair, Mr Badral, said: “We believe the language was demeaning and derogatory.

“We cannot accept the choice of the wording was simple banter.”

After the hearing, members of the press saw Ryan running into a nearby primary school to avoid photographers.

Ms Gordon told the court that Ryan initially called her “beautiful” and put his sunglasses on her face.

She said: “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 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.”

Lee Ryan court case
Blue singer Lee Ryan was given unconditional bail (Jonathan Brady/PA)

After telling him to “stay away”, she said he grabbed both her wrists before passengers intervened.

She said: “He was towering over me, like he was leaning in to give me a kiss.”

Ms Gordon told the court: “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, who was tearful in the dock before giving evidence, said he drank a whole bottle of port and ate cheese in the BA lounge after the flight was delayed.

He told the court of “annoying” a passenger next to him by asking what book he was reading, with no recollection of what occurred after that.

The pop star went on: “I’m sorry.

“My band member is black, I’m not racist, I’ve had black girlfriends, mixed-race girlfriends.

“It was banter, just drunk banter I suppose, there was no malice or intention to upset anyone.”

He added: “I didn’t mean to cause any distress to anyone or be racist, it was just a poor choice of words I suppose.”

Ryan told the court his actions were merely “playful” and denied the use of the word chocolate was racist.

He also claimed to have said “chocolate chip cookie”, adding: “They’re white, there was no malice in them (the comments).”

He added: “I am sorry that I touched her, but that’s all I did, touch her lightly, by her admission.”

British Independent Film Awards
Lee Ryan is a member of boy band Blue (Ian West/PA)

He told police officers in an interview, read to the court: “I wish I could ring her up and apologise and offer her some Blue tickets for the next tour.”

In video footage of the arrest at the London airport, played in court, Ryan could be seen crying on the floor and repeatedly saying “I’ve done nothing wrong”.

He was also warned several times by Pc Bryett to stop trying to bite him.

Luke Bowyer, prosecuting, said Ryan was “snarling” at officers before “sobbing uncontrollably”.

He also told the court: “You’ve got a celebrity who believes he is entitled to harassing a woman.”

Mike Rainford, defending, argued no abusive language was used.

Another flight attendant, who also gave evidence in court, said she was approached by Ryan shortly after the plane departed.

Jade Smith said: “He told me he had a problem, that he was being harassed by other passengers, that he was famous and asked did I know who he was.”

Ryan asked to be upgraded from economy to business class but was refused as the plane was full.

She said: “He was angry, saying he was a gold card holder and that he needed to be moved because of this.”

She noticed Ryan was “slurring his words and staggering around” and cut him off from ordering alcohol.

Ryan, who said he lives in Spain, was granted unconditional bail and the case has been adjourned until February 24.