Former Sunderland and England winger Adam Johnson has been sentenced to six years in jail.
Johnson was found guilty by jury of one charge of sexual activity with a 15-year-old girl earlier this month at Bradford Crown Court – he lodged an appeal against that conviction on Thursday – having already pleaded guilty to a lesser charge and one of grooming on the opening day of his trial on February 10.
Johnson, whose contract was terminated by Sunderland following his guilty plea, ran into court to avoid the media scrum and then listened to a statement from the victim in which she detailed the impact the case has had on her personal life and schoolwork.
The prosecution also highlighted the way Johnson’s supporters had continued to harangue the victim on social media.
For the defence, psychologist Dr Philip Hopley claimed Johnson was “socially and psychologically immature” for his age and his physical development growing up “was somewhat retarded”.
Dr Hopley also recalled how Johnson was unable to discuss the crimes he had committed due to the shame he felt, with the footballer suggesting “being in prison would offer some relief. I just want to let people I have hurt get on with their lives”.
Johnson, according to Dr Hopley, also told him “explicit messaging was common practice among his fellow footballers”.
Summing up, judge Jonathan Rose said: “All of this is entirely your own responsibility and your own fault.
“She had only just turned 15 when you began to groom her…because you found her sexually attractive even though you knew her to be just 15.
“Your standing and your offending are the only reason this child has suffered abuse.”
Johnson, who showed no emotion when the verdict was delivered, has signed the sex offender’s register and has a restraining order placed on him against the victim. He must also pay £50,000 prosecution costs.
Johnson’s parents were in court on Thursday but his sister Faye stayed away, having explained why in a Facebook post.
She wrote: “Today is the sentencing for my brother, the worst day of my life.
“I just wanted to let all of the supporters know that I will not be attending Bradford Crown Court, the reason for this is Adam has always been my hero, my brother and my best friend, I just don’t want him to see the pain in my eyes!
“Instead I will be at home with my little boy, Adam’s number 1 fan, Adam’s daughter and the mother of his child Stacey.
“I remain proud of my big brother and I am 100 per cent behind him and I always will be.”
After Johnson’s conviction, Sunderland released a statement refuting claims the club knew of the former Manchester City man’s intention to plead guilty.
However, chief executive Margaret Byrne subsequently resigned from her position citing a “serious error of judgment” in recommending the 28-year-old be allowed to play for the club despite being told by Johnson’s lawyer in May 2015 that his client had kissed the girl and sent her a series of suggestive WhatsApp messages.