Tuesday 17 October 2017

Convicted sex offender Adam Johnson could be locked up alongside notorious killers Ian Huntley and Levi Bellfield

Former England player found guilty of sexual activity with a schoolgirl (15)

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

Tom Wilkinson and Tom White

Adam Johnson could be spending his time behind bars alongside killers Ian Huntley and Levi Bellfield.

The convicted child sex offender and former England player will be placed in HM Prison Leeds, in Armley, but is likely to be moved to the top security prison to be closer to his family for visits, the Telegraph reports.

The former Sunderland player was warned this week that he could face up to ten years in prison for his crimes.

His lawyers have indicated they may look at grounds for appeal after he was found guilty on the more serious charge of sexual activity with a schoolgirl (15) at the end of his trial at Bradford Crown Court.

Johnson had been dating Stacey Flounders since 2011. The couple have a daughter
Johnson had been dating Stacey Flounders since 2011. The couple have a daughter

He had already admitted grooming her, and a less serious charge involving kissing and touching her in his car.

The top security prison he is expected to move to houses Ian Huntley, a former caretaker who was convicted of murdering two 10-year-old schoolgirls in 2002, and Levi Bellfied, a serial killer who is currently in prison for the murders of schoolgirl Milly Dowler, Amelie Delagrange (22) and Marsha McDonnell (19) and the attempted murder of Kate Sheedy (18).

Meanwhile, Adam Johnson's victim will want to know why the footballer was allowed "back on to the pitch", the detective who led the investigation into his child sex offending has said.

Pressure was mounting on the Sunderland AFC hierarchy to explain when they became aware of the full extent of Johnson's crimes.

Secluded spot near a Chinese takeaway where Adam Johnson allegedly met girl
Secluded spot near a Chinese takeaway where Adam Johnson allegedly met girl

The 28-year-old former England footballer was told on Wednesday he will receive a "substantial prison sentence" after he was found guilty of sexual activity with a besotted 15-year-old fan.

Sunderland sacked him after he pleaded guilty at the start of his trial at Bradford Crown Court to grooming and kissing her.

Adam Johnson playing for England in 2012
Adam Johnson playing for England in 2012

Manager Sam Allardyce told his weekly press conference that that had come as a "massive shock" to the club as bosses thought he would deny all charges.

In a statement after the trial, the club insisted they would have sacked him immediately had they known he was going to admit any of the charges.

But Detective Inspector Aelfwynn Sampson, of Durham Police, told BBC News that after the player was arrested a year ago, she told club bosses that sexual activity had taken place and that Johnson had messaged the girl.

Sunderland initially suspended the player for a fortnight, then allowed him back into the squad as the club fought relegation last year. The club insisted this was because Johnson said he was pleading not guilty.

Adam Johnson arrives at Bradford Crown Court where he was found guilty of sexual activity with a child. Photo: Anna Gowthorpe/PA Wire
Adam Johnson arrives at Bradford Crown Court where he was found guilty of sexual activity with a child. Photo: Anna Gowthorpe/PA Wire

The detective told the BBC: "At the centre of this we have a 15-year-old girl who was an avid Sunderland fan and a massive fan of Adam Johnson, she describes him as her idol, she'll want to know why he was allowed back on the pitch."

There have been calls for the bosses to answer why he was allowed to carry on playing and picking up £60,000 a week, despite the club allegedly being given all 834 WhatsApp messages exchanged between the footballer and the teenage girl back in May.

Clare Phillipson, director of charity Wearside Women in Need, said allowing Johnson to play sent out an "absolutely dreadful" message as it led people to think he was probably innocent.

During the trial the jury was told that, by May 4, chief executive Margaret Byrne met Johnson and his barrister and she had all the messages exchanged and transcripts from police interviews.

Ms Phillipson said: "If that's true, then at that point they definitely should have suspended him because, in allowing him to continue to play, tens of thousands of fans and lots of other people thought 'Oh well, the club is still letting him play - the case against him can't be very good, he probably is innocent'."

Former Sunderland and England footballer Adam Johnson leaves Bradford Crown Court where he was found guilty of one count of sexual activity with a child
Former Sunderland and England footballer Adam Johnson leaves Bradford Crown Court where he was found guilty of one count of sexual activity with a child

Julie Elliott, Labour MP for Sunderland Central, said "there are questions to be answered".

The NSPCC said: "If Sunderland AFC had known that Johnson had kissed the girl, prior to his guilty plea, then he should have been suspended pending the police investigation.

"He was a role model and it would have sent out a strong message that this kind of behaviour must not be tolerated at any level."

At his press conference, Allardyce said: "I am hugely disappointed on Adam Johnson and what has happened, but my sympathies don't lie with him, they lie with the victim and the family."

The Professional Footballers' Association said Johnson's actions were "extremely disappointing" and showed the organisation still had work to do in educating players.

The Football Association also criticised the behaviour of the former England player, saying: "Our thoughts are with the victim and her family as they look to rebuild their lives after this traumatic ordeal."

Press Association

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