FORMER England and Sunderland star Adam Johnson has been sentenced to six years imprisonment after being found guilty of engaging in sexual activity with a 15-year-old girl.
The midfielder was emotionless as the judge handed out the sentence at the Bradford crown court before his family and friends and hordes of journalists and paparazzi.
The 28-year-old had denied the heavier charges but a majority verdict found him guilty of carrying out a sexual act with the teenager in his Range Rover in January of last year.
Judge Jonathon Rose told the Sunderland native “All of this is entirely your own responsibility and fault” adding that he “had every opportunity” to plead his guilt but had instead caused the schoolgirl “severe psychological harm” after enduring a year of abuse during which she was called a liar and had the story dragged out in the tabloid press.
Gutter newspapers across the UK has focused relentlessly on the case, dragging out such details as the colour of Johnson’s girlfriend’s shoes, as the teenage girl sank further into depression amid the furore.
The judge emphasised that the deliberate and planned nature of Johnson’s actions were key to the severity of the sentence noting “she had only just turned 15 when you began grooming her, because, as you were to admit, you found her sexually attractive.”
“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.”
Prosecutor Kate Blackwell had argued for a ten year sentence for carrying out a “calculated, considered and carefully-orchestrated” crime. She told the court that her client had undergone counselling for suicidal thoughts, anxiety and depression.
A statement from the teenager read in court said “I have entered many dark places over these 12 months,” she said. “I just wanted to shut the world out and pretend I didn’t exist and that this wasn’t real.”
The whole experience has been very overwhelming and throughout the process I’ve had many hard times. I’ve always felt at risk of being recognised when I go places and on some occasions this has happened.
“For a whole year I’ve been accused of many things and being unable to defend myself has made this hard to deal with not just for me but for my family and close friends. It has affected us all.”
Johnson has now been stripped of his 12 England caps.