Man faces jail for grabbing air steward’s crotch and asking ‘are you gay?’

A man could be jailed after he grabbed the genitals of a male flight attendant and asked, “are you gay?”.

Thomas Sleigh, 45, has been found guilty of sexual assault against the crew member on the Ryanair flight from Murcia to Manchester.

Sleigh had claimed it had been an accident, but now faces up to 10 years in jail, and may be made to sign the sex offenders register when he is sentenced later this month.

Prosecutor Nicole Durham said that Sleigh was travelling back to Manchester with his family and his daughter on 7 September 2016.

Durham said that Sleigh had drunk three cans of beer before the flight, and that his daughter had been drinking alcohol not purchased on the plane.

When the victim approached the group asking to collect a can, Sleigh then “grabbed” and “flicked” his genitals, said prosecutors.

He was heard asking the victim “are you gay”, and then seen sticking his middle finger up at the attendant.

The victim, giving evidence in court, said: “I didn’t answer his question. I stepped back in shock.

“I said: ‘Don’t ever touch me in that area ever again’.”

According to Ms Durham, Sleigh’s daughter said, “he is joking”.

“So you think it’s a joke to be touched in that area? How would you like it?” the victim said.

Sleigh was arrested when the plane landed in Manchester.

Ms Durham told the court: “This person has been targeted because of his perceived sexuality.”

Sleigh had later claimed it was an accident that he touched the groin of the victim, and Shane O’Neill defending, said he had been resting his head in his hand which caused him to accidentally touch the victim.

In his defence, Sleigh said he had no problem with gay people because his son is gay.

Chair of the bench, Lorraine Lighton said she did not believe that Sleigh touched the victim by accident.

Sleigh will be sentenced at Manchester Magistrates Court on 23 March after being unconditionally granted bail.