Man who grabbed air steward’s crotch and asked ‘are you gay?’ could lose his job

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

Thomas Sleigh, 45, was earlier this month found guilty of sexual assault against the crew member on the Ryanair flight from Murcia to Manchester.

He has now been sentenced to a 12 month community order. The sentence includes £300 in compensation to the victim and 200 hours of unpaid work.

Sleigh had claimed it had been an accident, and had faced up to 10 years in jail.

He is also required to register his details with police and notify them of changes of circumstances under a five-year notification requirement.

Defending Shane O’Neill said: “For a few seconds of stupidity, his job hangs in the balance,” stating that Sleigh had apologised to the victim at the time.

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.