Singer Lee Ryan has successfully applied to withdraw his guilty plea for drunkenly assaulting a police officer during his arrest for abusing a black flight attendant.
A hearing in January 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 attendant Leah Gordon’s looks, calling her a “chocolate cookie”, before grabbing her wrists.
Police footage showed Ryan “snarling” and swearing after allegedly trying to bite a Pc Bryett 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, Ryan was told it would be “unjust” for him not to be allowed to withdraw the guilty plea after he claimed he received bad advice from his solicitor Mike Rainford.
Keima Payton, representing Ryan, earlier said her client has autistic spectrum disorder and “slow processing skills”, leading to “impairments in understanding what is said to him”, according to a psychological report.
She said text messages sent by Ryan on the day of the hearing showed he was made to feel like he “had to” plead guilty by Mr Rainford, “even though he (Pc Bryett) had me by the neck”.
Giving evidence on Tuesday, Ryan said he initially chose not to plead guilty to assaulting a police officer at a hearing in November, when he admitted to being drunk on an aircraft, saying: “I didn’t do it. I didn’t bite him. That’s the reason why I pleaded not guilty.”
Describing the moment he pleaded guilty at a second hearing in January, when a trial was due to start, 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.”
Ruling Ryan could withdraw the plea on Tuesday, deputy chief magistrate Tan Ikram said: “There is a feature of this case that makes it slightly different.
“Mr Ryan was diagnosed with ADHD. He has subsequently been diagnosed with Asperger’s.
“One of the challenges that people with high-functioning autism can have is slow processing of information and responding inappropriately to what is said.
“Mr Ryan was advised. He received that advice as an instruction.
“In these circumstances I am in real doubt as to whether it was an informed admission of guilt or a following of instructions.
“It would be unjust not to allow him to withdraw his guilty plea.”
Ryan entered a second not guilty plea at the hearing and elected to be put on trial.
A decision on whether or not Ryan will face a trial will be made at a fresh hearing in July.