LONDON: Former England footballer Adam Johnson has been jailed for six years for engaging in sexual activity with a besotted 15-year-old fan by a judge who said the girl had suffered “severe psychological harm”.
Johnson, 28, showed no emotion as he stood in the dock at Bradford Crown Court for the sentence.
Judge Jonathan Rose told the former Sunderland and Manchester City winger that he took advantage of “a young teenager’s adoration of a successful celebrity”.
Johnson looked straight ahead and did not glance at his parents, Sonia and Dave, who also showed no emotion as they sat listening in the front row of the public gallery.
The packed courtroom listened in silence as Judge Rose repeated how Johnson had kissed and sexually touched the girl in his Range Rover, in a secluded spot in County Durham, on January 30 last year.
The judge told the player the offences happened “at a time when you were engaged in frequent sexual intercourse with multiple partners”.
And he outlined how various medical professionals had agreed he suffered from “compulsive sexual behaviour”.
According to the judge, Johnson told a psychiatrist: “I treated (the teenager) like any of the girls I met.
“I put her age out of my mind. I was sexually interested but she was just another girl, another opportunity. She was attractive enough. Another one to get with.”
The judge said to him: “When you had moved to play for Manchester City you embarked on an extensive social life which involved sexual activity on a very frequent basis with a number of different partners, even when you were ostensibly in a settled relationship.
“You do not suffer from any mental illness but are described as having a very high libido and a tendency to engage in sexual activity to a compulsive degree.”
A jury found him guilty of sexual activity with a child in relation to “digital penetration” but cleared him of the same offence relating to the oral sex.
He had already admitted another charge of sexual activity with a child in relation to kissing and also of grooming the girl.
The judge said Johnson had lied repeatedly, referring as he did so to the controversy over whether he delayed his guilty pleas to enable him to continue his £60,000-a-week career with Sunderland.
The judge said: “You lied about the nature and extent of your contact with her and you lied then and throughout the months which followed about the level of your sexual activity with her.
“You had every opportunity to enter guilty pleas to the matters you finally admitted to the court but you chose not to do so, and one consequence of that is that (the girl) was regarded as a liar, by her peers and by the football supporters who would chant abuse about her.
“Little wonder that by the time of this trial she had, in her words, endured a year of abuse, of being called a liar and other more graphic insults, and was deeply upset by what you had done to her and by her treatment, such that she required counselling and such that she reached the lowest ebb after she gave evidence.”
He added: “She speaks of entering many dark places in that year and said she had suffered bullying and stress and had underachieved at school as a result of the case.”
The judge said: “I am satisfied that (the girl) has suffered severe psychological harm and have no doubt that I should take this into account.”
She had suffered sadness, anger and confusion which had been “exasperated” because of the footballer’s status and standing, he said.
The judge said Johnson must pay £50,000 of the prosecution’s £67,132 costs.
Later Johnson re-appeared in court to hear legal argument, but the blue suit he wore to be sentenced had been replaced by a grey sweatshirt and grey jogging bottoms.
Johnson appeared without the support of former partner Stacey Flounders, the mother of his one-year-old daughter, and his sister, Faye Johnson, who used a Facebook post to say she would not attend the hearing because she did not want her brother “to see the pain in my eyes”.
Johnson made his England debut against Mexico on May 24, 2010 and made four starts and eight substitute appearances in the next two years. Five of his appearances were in competitive matches and both his England goals came in European Championship qualifying fixtures. His final England appearance was against Italy on August 15, 2012.
No other England internationals with criminal convictions have had their caps stripped.
PFA undecided over future support for Johnson
The Professional Footballers’ Association is yet to decide whether it will continue to support Adam Johnson after he was sent to prison for six years.
The former Sunderland and England winger was jailed at Bradford Crown Court on Thursday for engaging in sexual activity with a 15-year-old fan.
PFA chief executive Gordon Taylor was non-committal when asked if his organisation would still offer support to Johnson, telling Sky Sports News: “That’s a question for the management committee.
“At this moment in time we can only be critical of what has happened and have sympathy with the victim and focus on that element of really (her) well-being.
“With regard to Adam Johnson, he’s incarcerated for six years, then we will discuss that in a due process of time with my management committee.”
The NSPCC on Thursday wrote an open letter to Football Association chairman Greg Dyke saying it is worried football clubs are not taking the issue of child protection as seriously as they should.
The letter, signed by NSPCC chief executive Peter Wanless, said the organisation was worried football had a “cultural problem”.
Johnson was suspended by Sunderland after his arrest last March, but returned to training and continued to play for the club until his trial last month.
He pleaded guilty to one charge of sexual activity with a child and one charge of grooming. He was found guilty of another charge of sexual activity with a child, and cleared of a third.
He was sacked by Sunderland straight after his guilty pleas.