SIX YEARS: Adam Johnson jailed for sex act with girl of 15
Former England footballer Adam Johnson has been jailed for six years for engaging in sexual activity with a besotted 15-year-old fan.
Johnson, 28, showed no emotion as he was sentenced at Bradford Crown Court by Judge Jonathan Rose.
The former Sunderland and Manchester City winger was found guilty of sexual activity with the teenager following an incident in his Range Rover in County Durham last year.
He admitted another charge of sexual activity with a child and grooming the girl.
Johnson stood with his hands behind his back as the judge - who said the girl had “suffered severe psychological harm” - passed sentence.
The judge said the victim had been a Sunderland fan who would wait after matches to take pictures of her “favourite player”, Johnson, who had known her age.
He said: “That was known to you - to put it another way she had only just turned 15 when you began grooming her, because as you were to admit you found her sexually attractive.”
He added that the footballer’s intention had been to engage in sexual activity with her, knowing that she was under 16.
The judge said Johnson had exchanged more than 800 messages with her, which had largely been innocent.
But he added: “You continued in your grooming of this girl even after you were engaged in sexual activity with her. You wanted no-one to know that you and she were exchanging messages.
“You asked her to find a place to meet that was private and secluded so no-one would see you in her company.”
Judge Rose told Johnson the offences happened “at a time when you were engaged in frequent sexual intercourse with multiple partners”.
He said: “You made a deliberate decision to engage in sexual activity with this young girl, no doubt in the expectation that you would get away with it.”
He said: “Your future as a professional footballer must be in doubt.”
Judge Rose told him that he had “every opportunity” to enter guilty pleas to the charges he finally admitted.
The judge said Johnson’s decision not to plead guilty meant that the girl was subjected to a year of being called a liar, including having this being chanted by football fans.
He said she reached her “lowest ebb” after giving evidence in the trial.
Judge Rose said the aggravating factors included the secluded location of the offence, Johnson’s “disposal” of social media evidence and attempts to stop the girl reporting the matter.
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.”
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.
Johnson used his celebrity and power to pursue his desires, the detective who led the case against the footballer said after the hearing.
Detective Inspector Aelfwynn Sampson, of Durham Constabulary, said: “This is a carefully considered and significant sentence which sends out a clear message.
“Fame, celebrity and a position of power does not give you the right to break the law in pursuit of whatever you desire.”
The case has sparked a debate, with some who support the disgraced footballer saying the victim knew what she doing when she agreed to meet him.
Ms Sampson said: “Members of the public are clearly entitled to express their opinions but the law remains clear and Adam Johnson broke it.
“He partially admitted his guilt and was found guilty of a more serious count after trial.
“The age of consent is clear. It is set at 16 to protect young people from adults and also themselves.
“Johnson, a 28-year-old man, picked out a 15-year-old girl. His sexual intentions to the girl were clear as he admitted himself while giving evidence.
“He pleaded guilty to grooming her for sexual activity fully knowing how old she was from the start. She never lied about her age to him.
“He groomed his victim and gave her his personal phone number, arranged to meet her and gave her special gifts of signed shirts.
“Over a period of time they exchanged hundreds of messages. He made her feel special and admitted flirting with her to manipulate the schoolgirl in an attempt to satisfy his sexual desires.
“This girl should have been safe but she was used by the public figure she looked up to most.
“I hope today will bring some closure for her and her family.
“This case demonstrates that victims of these crimes will be taken seriously and perpetrators will be dealt with robustly.”