England

Adam Johnson guilty of child sex charge

  • 2 March 2016
  • From the section England
Adam Johnson Image copyright PA/Durham Police
Image caption The former Sunderland footballer was arrested in March last year

Ex-England footballer Adam Johnson has been found guilty of one count of sexual activity with a girl aged 15.

The jury at Bradford Crown Court found Johnson guilty of a charge of sexual touching, but not guilty on a charge relating to another sexual act.

The former Sunderland player had previously admitted grooming the girl and one charge of sexual activity.

Judge Jonathan Rose has warned Johnson he faces jail and told him to "say goodbye to your daughter".

Reaction to Adam Johnson's conviction

Media captionAdam Johnson's victim said in her written statement that she had "lost all her confidence"

In a statement, Johnson's victim said she had been through the "hardest year" of her life.

She said meeting her hero felt "surreal" at first but she now feels "used and let down" by Johnson.

She said: "I have had to face so much abuse after he claimed his innocence and I was made out to be a liar.

"What happened in his car has turned my life upside down.

"There are people who have made assumptions about me and this has been hard to deal with... Him being found guilty shows everyone I was telling the truth."

'Significant sentence'

The judge said his preliminary view was that the case falls into the category of a five-year prison sentence with a range of four to 10 years.

He said: "The defendant must understand there is a very high probability of a significant custodial sentence."

The judge told Johnson he would be released on bail so he could get his "affairs in order".

He said: "You can say goodbye to your daughter. A prison sentence will mean you will not see her for some time."

Johnson, 28, showed no emotion as the verdicts were delivered and he has been granted bail until his sentencing, which is due to take place in two to three weeks.

Image copyright Durham Police
Image caption The crime took place in Adam Johnson's Range Rover

Johnson met up with the girl on 30 January 2015 after agreeing to sign football shirts for her, the court heard.

The player admitted kissing the teenager but told the jury the encounter in his Range Rover "went no further".

However the girl told the court the former winger "put his hands down her pants" and she performed an oral sex act on him.

The jury, which had been deliberating since Tuesday morning following a three-week trial, cleared Johnson over the oral sex claim but convicted him by a 10-2 majority on the sexual touching charge.

Johnson was sacked by Sunderland after admitting on the first day of his trial that he had kissed the girl.

'Gifted' footballer's fall from grace

He began communicating with the girl at the very end of 2014 while his partner, Stacey Flounders, was heavily pregnant with their first child.

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Adam Johnson first contacted the girl while his partner Stacey Flounders was pregnant with their child

The victim, who cannot be named for legal reasons, was a Sunderland season ticket holder and was "infatuated" with Johnson.

Johnson told the jury that when she sent him a friend request on Facebook he recognised her as a Sunderland fan.

After he accepted the request he began a communication which involved 834 WhatsApp messages in little more than a month before the exchanges moved on to SnapChat and were not recorded.

During the trial, prosecutors accused Johnson of delaying his admission to the lesser offences until the start of his trial so he could still play for Sunderland, from whom he earned £60,000 a week.

Johnson told the court the club knew he had kissed the girl.

Image copyright PA
Image caption In court, Adam Johnson claimed Sunderland knew he had kissed the girl but the club has strongly denied having any knowledge of his guilt

In a statement issued after the verdict, the club said it played no part in Johnson's plea decisions and only became aware he was changing his plea when he admitted two of the charges in court, at which point it sacked him.

Sunderland's 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.

"This has been an extremely difficult time for all involved. The victim and her family have endured an unimaginable ordeal in the last 12 months and we trust that they will now be allowed to move on with their lives without further intrusion or public scrutiny."

Media captionHe had a responsibility to be a role model: Det Insp Aelfwynn Sampson of Durham Police

Speaking after the verdicts, Det Insp Aelfwynn Sampson from Durham Police praised the victim for her bravery.

She said: "In our football-obsessed region, Adam Johnson had a responsibility as a professional footballer to be a role model, a role he did not fulfil."

Children's charity the NSPCC also condemned Johnson after his trial.

A spokesperson said: "Adam Johnson cynically used his celebrity status as a professional footballer to groom and sexually abuse an impressionable schoolgirl.

"His behaviour throughout was inexcusable, made even worse by the fact his not guilty pleas forced his young victim to suffer the harrowing experience of giving evidence in court."

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