foot fetishist who crawled under cinema seats to touch the legs of young children has been jailed.

Luke Merry, 25, of Lakeside Boulevard, Lakeside, Doncaster, had admitted two charges of sexual assault on a child under 13 and one offence of voyeurism.

Merry, who is deaf but wears a cochlear implant, claimed he was looking for his earpiece at the Vue cinema in Leeds.

Jailing him for 18 months Judge Simon Phillips said Merry’s offending had a “profound effect” on the children.

Leeds Crown Court was told by prosecutor Daniel Penman that Merry had travelled to the Vue cinema on Kirkstall Road in the city on 13 April 2019.

He went to see the film Dumbo but crawled under the seats to get access to the children, the court heard.

When adults were alerted to his behaviour the lights in the cinema were turned on and the film stopped.

Merry claimed he was looking for part of his hearing equipment.

He had seen the same film several times at different cinemas and was banned from the Vue venue in Sheffield for similar behaviour, the court was told. 

On a previous occasion, he had accompanied the young daughter of a female friend to a cinema toilet and photographed the child under the cubicle door.

He had previously been convicted of outraging public decency by sitting under a desk in Nottingham being used by a female and performing a sex act.

He had also performed a sex act while looking at pictures of women’s feet on his phone.

Mitigating, Robin Frieze, said Merry’s parents were “at their wits’ end” trying to get suitable help for their son.

Judge Phillips told Merry his offending had a profound effect and his “deviant behaviour had escalated over a number of years”.