Monday 24 April 2017

Adam Johnson faces 'substantial' jail term over child sex conviction

Adam Johnson has been found guilty on one count sexual activity of a minor. Inset: Adam Johnson's police mugshot
Adam Johnson has been found guilty on one count sexual activity of a minor. Inset: Adam Johnson's police mugshot
Stacey Flounders, the ex girlfriend of footballer Adam Johnson at the court yesterday.

Dave Higgens

Former England footballer Adam Johnson has been told he will received a "substantial prison sentence" after he was found guilty of sexual activity with a besotted 15-year-old fan.

His teenage victim said she felt "so broken" after her idol was found guilty of one count of sexual activity with a child at Bradford Crown Court and cleared of another.

Johnson, 28, was given bail by Judge Jonathan Rose, who warned him: "You must understand that when you return here at the end of March you will receive a substantial prison sentence."

Justifying giving him bail, the judge said: "You can say goodbye to your daughter. A prison sentence will mean you will not see her for some time."

Johnson showed no obvious emotion as the jury returned its verdicts. He had already admitted a less serious charge of sexual activity with the teenager and also grooming her over social media.

All the charges relate to an incident in the former Sunderland winger's Range Rover when he met up with the girl in County Durham on January 30 last year.

Footballer Adam Johnson arrives at Bradford Crown Court
Footballer Adam Johnson arrives at Bradford Crown Court

Read more: Did Adam Johnson avoid pleading guilty so he could continue playing and pocket £3m?

In a statement read by a police officer outside court, the teenager, who cannot be identified, said: "I felt used and let down by him.

"It's been the hardest year of my life and I've had to face so much abuse after he claimed his innocence."

She added: "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."

Stacey Flounders, the ex girlfriend of footballer Adam Johnson at the court yesterday.
Stacey Flounders, the ex girlfriend of footballer Adam Johnson at the court yesterday.

The jury of eight women and four men has heard how Johnson began exchanging hundreds of messages with the girl on social media at New Year 2015. He eventually agreed to meet her to sign football shirts.

But it was when they met for a second time that he asked for his "thank you kiss".

Johnson admitted kissing the girl but denied any further sexual activity. The girl told the jury how the player digitally penetrated her after putting his hands down her pants and that she then gave him oral sex.

The jury cleared Johnson of the count relating to oral sex but found him guilty on a majority of 10-2 on the count relating to the digital penetration.

Johnson, who played for England 12 times, left court in chaotic scenes as police officers were reading out statements to the media. There were scuffles involving police, Johnson's entourage and photographers.

His ex-girlfriend, Stacey Flounders, followed some distance behind, closely protected by a police officer.

Earlier, Judge Rose told the player - who was earning £60,000-a-week until he was sacked by Sunderland after his guilty pleas - that he was granting him bail but he should be under "no illusion" that he would be jailed when he sentenced later this month.

Just before he left the dock, the judge told Johnson that being released on bail meant he could get his "affairs in order".

Explaining his bail conditions, the judge said Johnson would be "well advised to stay well away from social media".

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

Speaking in the rain outside Bradford Crown Court, Detective Inspector Aelfwynn Sampson said: "In this football-obsessed region he was idolised by thousands.

"However, Johnson exploited his position as a local hero to take advantage of a young and impressionable girl.

"This was not a case where he didn't know how old a girl was. From the start of their contact, he knew full well that she had just turned 15 and yet this did not stop him.

"The law is clear. The legal age of consent is set at 16 to protect young people."

In a statement issued after the case, Sunderland FC said it "refuted" any suggestion the club knew all along that Johnson was intending to change his plea just before his trial so he could continue to play for them, and that the club may have been involved in tactical discussions about the plea.

The club said it was not advised in advance that Johnson would plead guilty to any offence.

"Had the club known that Mr Johnson intended to plead guilty to any of these charges, then his employment would have been terminated immediately," the statement said.

Johnson, of Castle Eden, County Durham, was bailed to be sentenced at a date to be fixed, before the end of March. He was bailed on condition he lived at his home address and did not contact witnesses.

The player was also order to observe a 7pm to 7am curfew.

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