Adam Johnson's victim suffered 'severe psychological harm,' court told

The victim of former Sunderland and ex-England footballer Adam Johnsonsuffered "severe psychological harm" because of his actions, a court has heard.

Thursday, 24th March 2016, 11:22 am
Updated Thursday, 24th March 2016, 12:08 pm
Adam Johnson. Picture by PA.

Johnson is facing a "substantial prison sentence" after he was found guilty of one offence of sexual activity with a besotted 15-year-old fan by a jury earlier this month.

The winger had already admitted another count of the same offence and also grooming the girl, who idolised the former Sunderland and Manchester City player.

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Prosecutor Kate Blackwell QC told Bradford Crown Court that there was a "significant disparity" in age between the defendant, who was of previous good character, and the victim.

She said: "At the time of the commission of these offences, (the victim) was one month after her 15th birthday and the defendant was 27. He was all but twice her age, 13 years older."

She added: "The most apparent feature in the view of the Crown is the severe psychological harm that the defendant has caused to the victim."

Johnson, 28, who entered the court chewing gum, was without the support of former partner Stacey Flounders, the mother of his one-year-old daughter, and his sister, FayeJohnson, 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".

After Johnson's conviction Judge Jonathan Rose told the player: "You can say goodbye to your daughter. A prison sentence will mean you will not see her for some time."

All the charges relate to an incident in Johnson's Range Rover when he met up with the girl in County Durham on January 30 last year.

Miss Blackwell said the victim had suffered at school, both in her work and from bullying because of Johnson's actions.

Miss Blackwell read part of the girl's victim impact statement to the court, which said: "This whole experience has been overwhelming. Through the process I have had many hard times."

The statement said that because Johnson had protested his innocence, she "felt very intimidated by it all and felt very lonely. I have entered many dark places over this 12-month period and at times wanted to just shut the whole world out".

It continued: "Even after Adam pleaded guilty to the two charges, I have still been the subject of bullying."

The teenager's mother said in a statement read to the court that her family had "taken no satisfaction" in the impact the case had on Johnson's family and stressed that at no time had they tried to seek any financial gain.

She added that her daughter had been the victim of thousands of "slanderous" and "malicious" remarks and threats of violence on social media.

Miss Blackwell said Sunderland must have known by May last year what their player had done.

She said Johnson continued to play, "earning his wages" and enjoying the "adoration of fans".

She said: "Why was this the fault of anyone except himself?"

The prosecutor also pointed to the harassment of the victim on social media, saying those close to him "encouraged and promoted" the abuse by providing a social media platform.

Miss Blackwell told the court: "He must have been aware of conduct carried out in his name."

Miss Blackwell said the defendant took advantage of the girl's "adulation".

She added: "This is not a fleeting contact or a fleeting offence, an isolated episode of messages with (victim). These offences were calculated, considered and carefully orchestrated.

"The Crown says he continues to present a risk to those in the victim's position."

The prosecutor also told the court that Johnson had a history of meeting girls for sex, describing it as a "clandestine habit".

Miss Blackwell said a medical report concluded Johnson "believes he has a right to sex".

She said the same report writer said the footballer believed his actions did not constitute an offence as he thought of the victim as a young woman not a child.

The prosecutor said he told one medic: "I treated her like any other girl I meet."

She said he added: "I put her age out of my mind ... Her age never came into my mind."

Miss Blackwell said one report concluded that Johnson has "a compulsive drive to have new sexual experiences".

Dr Philip Hopley, a consultant psychiatrist giving evidence for the defence, told the court: "This is a man who, at the age of 28, is socially and psychologically immature."

Dr Hopley said Johnson developed very late physically and had low self confidence as a youngster.

He said he believed that as a professional footballer he developed his confidence and self-esteem very quickly and this, combined with the availability of willing women, led to his "compulsive sexual behaviour".

The doctor said he found no evidence in Johnson of an attraction to pre-pubescent children or "sexual perversion".

He said that during his meetings with Johnson the footballer was not "guarded" or measured in his replies.

He told the court Johnson had disclosed his activities to him.

Johnson's barrister Orlando Pownall QC asked him: "Did you perceive that he was trying to underestimate and mislead you?"

Dr Hopley replied: "No I did not."

Mr Pownall asked whether Johnson told him that sending explicit messages was "common practice amongst his fellow professional footballers and associates"?

The psychiatrist replied: "That is correct."

Mr Pownall said that Johnson had described an increasing availability of women, adding that "he never thought that what he was doing was wrong in his head".

The barrister added: "Did he appear to show remorse for his actions?"

Dr Hopley said: "Yes he did."

The psychiatrist added that Johnson had told him he had "lost every aspect of his life", adding: "I just want to let people I have hurt get on with their lives now."

But Miss Blackwell said that the defendant's attitude towards women had been set out in a report.

She said: "Mr Johnson, using his professional status to obtain partners for his sexual gratification, was able to persuade himself that the participants were not damaged in any way and gained kudos for having sex with a professional footballer."

Mr Pownall urged the judge not to "get carried away" in his sentencing.

He said: "We do invite the court to be proportionate."

Mr Pownall acknowledged the court had heard the victim "has suffered severe psychological harm", adding: "Much of the harm has arisen from (the victim) being in the public eye. As the court is well aware there were concerns that her identification had become known."

He added that it had been aggravated "by the media at large and social media" and submitted that media and social media had "contributed to the psychological harm".

Mr Pownall said: "The fact remains that as a result of his plea he has lost everything. It may be said 'and so he should'."

"He is, and it might be said justifiably so, the subject of derision."

He urged the judge not to treat the fact that Johnson played on for Sunderland as aggravating factor that encouraged the social media abuse of his victim.