Adam Johnson Found Guilty of Sexual Activity with a Child
Former Sunderland footballer Adam Johnson could be looking at a five year prison sentence after he was found guilty yesterday of sexual activity with a child, following a trial that lasted two weeks. The 28 year old was found not guilty of another charge relating to the same girl.
Custodial sentence ‘inevitable outcome’
Judge Jonathan Rose, presiding over the case at Bradford Crown Court, told Johnson that when he is sentenced later this month, a custodial sentence was ‘an almost inevitable outcome’.
Granting Johnson bail, the judge told him to take the time to ‘say goodbye to your daughter [because] you will not see her for some time’.
Judge Rose added:
“You must understand when you return here at the end of March that it will be to receive a substantial prison sentence. Do you understand that?”
He went on to say that Johnson must obey the 7pm to 7am curfew imposed by the judge, adding ‘you would be well advised to stay well away from social media’.
After deliberating for a total of nine hours and fifteen minutes, the jury, consisting of eight women and four men, acquitted Johnson of one count of sexual activity with a child. However just half an hour later, they returned with a majority of 10-2 on another count of sexual activity with a child.
This verdict is likely to have an effect on the thousands of fans that had previously adored Johnson, according to DI Aelfwynn Sampson, of Durham constabulary, as he lived out his childhood dream of playing football for his hometown club.
The ex-England footballer apparently showed little emotion as the verdict was announced. Having initially denied all four allegations against him, Johnson changed his plea to guilty on one count of grooming and one count of kissing the 15 year old on his first day in court. However, throughout the trial he continued to deny that anything further had happened with school girl.
The court heard that Johnson’s victim, who is now 16, was a season ticket holder at Sunderland and apparently ‘idolised’ Johnson, regularly waiting outside the club’s ground for a picture with him. The pair began exchanging messages on New Year’s Eve 2014, at a time that Johnson’s then girlfriend – Stacey Flounders – was pregnant. They met face to face for the first time almost three weeks later for Johnson to give the girl two signed Sunderland shirts.
The victim, an avid and lifelong Sunderland fan, described how she felt ‘used and let down’ by Johnson. In a victim statement read outside the court, she went on to say:
“The last 12 months have been horrendous and there have been times when I’ve wanted to hide away from the world. There have been times I haven’t felt able to face people,
“There have been times when I’ve tried not to show people how upset I am, but sometimes it hasn’t been possible and I’d just cry. I’ve felt so broken.
“I’ve been in some very dark places over that time and I thought the trial and giving evidence, having my say, would give me closure. But it didn’t. It put me back into the same dark places and I felt worse than I’ve ever felt before. This was because I still didn’t feel believed.”
Whilst giving evidence, Johnson claimed that his former club, Sunderland AFC, knew back in May 2015 that he had admitted kissing and sending sexually explicit messages to the school girl.
Speaking in the witness box at Bradford Crown Court, Johnson said:
“I told them everything.”
This claim will no doubt come as an unwelcome one, as they already face questions as to why they allowed Johnson to return to play only sixteen days after his initial arrest.
During the trial, jurors heard that by 4th May, Sunderland’s chief executive Margaret Byrne, had copies of over 800 messages sent between the pair, along with copies of police interviews with both Johnson and the victim.
The £60,000 a week footballer’s final game was played against Liverpool FC at Anfield – a match in which he scored – on 6 February this year, just a week before his trial started. It was a whole 24 hours after his guilty plea on 10th February that the club tore up Johnson’s contract.
The trial heard that Margaret Byrne, the club’s chief executive, had copies of police interviews with Johnson and the victim, as well as copies of over 800 text messages they exchanged, by 4th May.
Following the outcome of the trial, Sunderland FC said that it completely denied any suggestion the club knew all this time of Johnson’s intention to change his plea to guilty so that he could continue to play for the club. The club also deny any involvement in discussions regarding the plea and that they were not aware that Johnson would plead guilty to any of the offences alleged against him.
The statement said:
“Had the club known that Mr Johnson intended to plead guilty to any of these charges, then his employment would have been terminated immediately,
“Indeed, upon learning of the guilty plea on 11 February 2016, the club acted quickly and decisively in terminating Adam Johnson’s contract without notice. The club did not give evidence either for the prosecution or the defence in this case.
“It was therefore not present in court when it is understood that a suggestion was made that the club knew all along that Mr Johnson was intending to change his plea just before trial to enable him to continue to play football for the club and that the club may also have been involved in tactical discussions about the plea.
“This is utterly without foundation and is refuted in the strongest possible terms. The club never placed any pressure or demands on Mr Johnson to play football during this process.”
Orlando Pownall QC, defending Johnson, told the court that they plan to appeal against the guilty verdict.
Sexual Abuse Claims – Expert Advice
Hampson Hughes Solicitors specialises in directing sexual abuse claims in a considerate and compassionate manner. Our Abuse & Criminal Injuries Department is headed by Greg Neill – Greg is a member of the Association of Child Abuse Lawyers (ACAL).
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