Thursday 8 December 2016

Adam Johnson child sex trial: Footballer 'carried out internet search on the legal age of consent'

Dave Higgens

Published 12/02/2016 | 12:10

England footballer Adam Johnson, 28, arrives with partner Stacey Flounders at Bradford Crown Court, Bradford, where he will go on trial accused of sexual activity with a child
England footballer Adam Johnson, 28, arrives with partner Stacey Flounders at Bradford Crown Court, Bradford, where he will go on trial accused of sexual activity with a child

England footballer Adam Johnson "abused his revered position in society" when he had sexual contact with a 15-year-old fan "in a way that he knew was both morally and legally wrong", prosecutors have said.

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The 28-year-old former Sunderland winger went on trial today accused of sexual activity with a child - a teenage girl who said Johnson was her favourite player.

Opening Johnson's trial, prosecutor Kate Blackwell QC said: "It is the crown's case that what has brought the defendant to this courtroom is a sexual desire for (the girl), an excessive arrogance and an unwarranted level of expectation.

"He has abused his revered position in society and, having met (her), this 15-year-old girl, at Sunderland Football Club and later on social media, and knowing that she looked up to him, made a conscious decision to act in a way that he knew was both morally and legally wrong."

Miss Blackwell told Bradford Crown Court that Johnson played for his country "wearing the England shirt with pride".

She said: "His is the success story that many young people can only dream of."

The prosecutor said the girl involved was 15 in December 2014, a time when Johnson lived with his partner, Stacey Flounders, who was then pregnant with their daughter, in Castle Eden, County Durham.

Miss Blackwell said: "Her (the girl's) real passion was Sunderland Football Club.

"She was a season ticket holder and rarely missed a home game and her favourite player was Adam Johnson.

"After matches, she would hang around waiting for a glimpse of him, wanting to get a photograph, often sporting a Sunderland shirt with Johnson's name emblazoned across the back."

Miss Blackwell told the jury of eight women and four that the girl had a picture on her Facebook page "depicting her wearing her Sunderland shirt standing in the car park of the Sunderland football ground with the defendant, his arm around her".

The prosecutor said: "She often waited for him after home matches, hoping to catch a glimpse of him before he drove away, keen for any contact, an autograph or, even better, a photograph.

"She had one enormous crush on him. He was her absolute hero. She idolised him."

Miss Blackwell said Johnson made contact with the girl after she made a Facebook friend request of him just before New Year 2015.

Miss Blackwell read to the jury a series of messages exchanged between Johnson and the girl in which he arranged to meet her so he could sign a football shirt.

In the message she made it clear she was a Year 10 student but everyone thought she looked older, jurors heard.

Miss Blackwell said: "So, over the course of New Year's Eve the defendant was made aware that (the girl) was 15, one month past her 15th birthday, with almost another year to wait until she became 16, that she was in Y10, that she was a fervent Sunderland fan and that he was her favourite player."

In the messages, the girl also congratulated Johnson on the birth of his daughter.

Miss Blackwell explained how the pair eventually met up on January 17 near a Chinese takeaway close to the girl's home.

She said the teenager got into the footballer's black Range Rover and he signed shirts.

After the meeting, the prosecutor said, the pair exchanged further messages, talking about whether Johnson deserved a thank you kiss for the shirt-signing "or more".

The court heard the pair met again on January 30 2015, when they had sexual contact in the footballer's car at the same location.

Miss Blackwell said: "What happened in that car on that evening is for you to decide.

"The Crown's case is that sexual activity took place, that the defendant and (the girl) kissed, with tongues, for some time during which the defendant unbuttoned her jeans and undid the zip."

The prosecutor described the sexual activity that she said followed.

She said: "The defendant then stopped what he was doing. He did not, as he would have you believe, have a sudden pang of conscience, an epiphany, an experience of sudden and striking realisation."

Miss Blackwell said the defendant then drove to "a more secluded place".

She said: "He did this because he was expecting further sexual contact with (the girl) and he wanted to ensure that they could not be overlooked."

The prosecutor then described further sexual activity she said happened between the pair.

Miss Blackwell said that, after this encounter, there were further messages between them.

In one, Johnson said to the girl: "It was class."

He added: "Just wanted to get your jeans off, LOL."

The court heard the girl replied: "Next time."

The jury was told Johnson also wrote to her: "I will last ten seconds though...because it will be too good...you felt very turned on."

Ms Blackwell said following the encounter Johnson had carried out an internet search on the legal age of consent.

She said: "You may wonder what the defendant was doing, why he had an interest in such matters. Was it because he was concerned about the sexual behaviour they had engaged in on January 30 in his car or was it because he was planning to see her again and take things even further?"

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