The former England footballer Adam Johnson has been jailed for six years for sexual activity with a child. Johnson, 28, was convicted of carrying out a sex act on the 15-year-old schoolgirl in January last year.
Johnson had denied all four of the allegations until the first day of his trial, when he pleaded guilty to one count of grooming and one count of kissing the schoolgirl. More after the court…
He continued to deny that he did anything further than kiss the teenager and disputed her two allegations of sexual offences.
But on 2 March he was found guilty by a majority verdict of carrying out a sex act on her in his black Range Rover behind a Chinese takeaway in County Durham on 30 January 2015. Johnson’s sister, Faye, and Stacey Flounders, the mother of his one-year-old daughter, were not in court for his sentencing.
Prosecutor Kate Blackwell had told the court Johnson should be jailed for up to 10 years for carrying out a “calculated, considered and carefully-orchestrated” crime.
The former England footballer’s offending had left his teenage victim with “severe psychological harm” and suicidal thoughts, she said. The teenager has undergone counselling for depression, suicidal thoughts and anxiety, Blackwell said, and lives in fear of being recognised. The court was told that the girl was once approached by a stranger and “asked intrusive questions” while out with her grandparents.
In an emotional victim impact statement read by Blackwell, the girl said her schoolwork had suffered as a result of the case and that she had been bullied even since Johnson’s conviction earlier this month.
“I have entered many dark places over these 12 months,” she said. “I just wanted to shut the world out and pretend I didn’t exist and that this wasn’t real.”
The girl’s mother, who cannot be named for legal reasons, said her daughter had received “disturbing threats of violence” but that she still believes it was the right decision to go to the police in order to protect other vulnerable young women.
Blackwell said Johnson’s offending was “calculated, considered, carefully-orchestrated” and that he still represented a threat to young women. She added that the former Sunderland midfielder “was in the habit of meeting girls on the way back from training to have sex” in clandestine locations.
The prosecutor said that another aggravating factor was that those close to Johnson including his sister, Faye have “openly encouraged and promoted” his supporters to “repeatedly and doggedly” abuse the footballer’s victim on social media.
In a victim impact statement read to court by Blackwell, the schoolgirl said: “The whole experience has been very overwhelming and throughout the process I’ve had many hard times. I’ve always felt at risk of being recognised when I go places and on some occasions this has happened. “I have felt very intimidated by it all and I’ve felt very lonely at times when I’ve felt everyone is against me due to Adam Johnson protesting his innocence and continuing to put himself in the public eye and ultimately it was like I was being taunted as if to say he could do what he wants and get away with it.
“For a whole year I’ve been accused of many things and being unable to defend myself has made this hard to deal with not just for me but for my family and close friends, it has affected us all. “I have entered many dark places over this 12 month period and at times just wanting to shut the whole world out feeling unable to face anyone. I just wanted to pretend I didn’t exist and none of this was real.”
She said her schoolwork had suffered massively and that she had been bullied even since Johnson’s conviction earlier this month.
“I am pleased with the three guilty verdicts as it proves to people I was not lying and it finally gives me a sense of closure to something I felt was never-ending. What happened a year ago has completely changed my life and now I hope justice has and will be done and I can move on from this,” she said.
It was revealed during the sentencing that Johnson had been stripped of his 12 England caps. His counsel, Orlando Pownall, asked the judge to “temper justice with mercy” when sentencing the footballer by considering his previous good character.
Pownall said: “He has lost a lucrative career he will never be able to retrieve. He has been stripped of his England caps and it might be said deservedly. He has been made the subject of national humiliation. These are all aspects of punishment that arise from his pleas and from his conviction.” Pownall said Johnson had a “compulsive attitude towards engaging in sexual activity” and was not a “predatory paedophile”.
Johnson’s sister said she remained proud and “100% behind” her brother before he was sentenced. In an emotional post to the footballer’s supporters on Thursday morning, Faye Johnson said it was “the worst day of my life”.
She added: “I just wanted to let all of the supporters know that I will not be attending Bradford crown court, the reason for this is Adam has always been my hero, my brother and my best friend, I just don’t want him to see the pain in my eyes! “Instead I will be at home with my little boy, Adam’s number 1 fan, Adam’s daughter and the mother of his child, Stacey. “I remain proud of my big brother and I am 100% behind him and I always will be. Love you Adam, See you soon.”
The victim, now 16, was a Sunderland season ticket holder who “idolised” Johnson and regularly waited outside the club’s Stadium of Light for a picture with her hero, the court heard.
They began swapping messages on New Year’s Eve and 18 days later Johnson met the girl to give her a signed Sunderland shirt. The pair met for a second time, on 30 January 2015, in his black Range Rover behind a Chinese takeaway in County Durham. It was on this occasion that Johnson kissed and performed a sexual act on the teenage girl.
DI Aelfwynn Sampson, of Durham Constabulary, said: “This is a carefully considered and significant sentence which sends out a clear message. “Fame, celebrity and a position of power does not give you the right to break the law in pursuit of whatever you desire. Members of the public are clearly entitled to express their opinions but the law remains clear and Adam Johnson broke it.”
Sampson said Johnson “partially admitted” his guilt and was found guilty of a more serious count after trial.
She added: “The age of consent is clear. It is set at 16 to protect young people from adults and also themselves. Johnson, a 28-year-old man, picked out a 15-year-old girl. His sexual intentions to the girl were clear as he admitted himself while giving evidence. “He pleaded guilty to grooming her for sexual activity fully knowing how old she was from the start. She never lied about her age to him. He groomed his victim and gave her his personal phone number, arranged to meet her and gave her special gifts of signed shirts. “Over a period of time they exchanged hundreds of messages. He made her feel special and admitted flirting with her to manipulate the schoolgirl in an attempt to satisfy his sexual desires. “This girl should have been safe but she was used by the public figure she looked up to most. I hope today will bring some closure for her and her family. This case demonstrates that victims of these crimes will be taken seriously and perpetrators will be dealt with robustly.”