Footballer Adam Johnson loses bid to appeal against child sex conviction

Adam Johnson, pictured outside Bradford Crown Court during his trial. Picture: PA.
Adam Johnson, pictured outside Bradford Crown Court during his trial. Picture: PA.

Former England footballer Adam Johnson has lost his Court of Appeal challenges against his conviction for sexual activity with a besotted teenage fan and his six-year jail sentence.

Three judges at the Court of Appeal in London today announced their decision in a bid by the 29-year-old to challenge both his conviction and six-year sentence.

At a recent hearing, Lady Justice Rafferty, Mr Justice Sweeney and the Recorder of Sheffield, Judge Julian Goose, heard renewed applications on Johnson's behalf following a previous refusal by a single judge.

At the start of his trial at Bradford Crown Court, Johnson admitted grooming the girl and one charge of sexual activity with a child, relating to kissing her.

He denied there was any further sexual activity with the girl in his Range Rover when he met up with her in County Durham.

The former Sunderland and Manchester City winger was found guilty by a jury in March last year of one offence of sexual activity with a child. He was cleared of one charge relating to another sexual act.

Judge Jonathan Rose, when sentencing, said he was satisfied the girl suffered "severe psychological harm" and that Johnson took advantage of "a young teenager's adoration of a successful celebrity".

At the centre of his fight against conviction is a criticism that the trial judge "misdirected" the jury on issues of his "credibility".

Eleanor Laws QC, representing Johnson at the Court of Appeal, argued that this must have had "an adverse and unfair impact on the credibility of Adam Johnson in a case where credibility was the central issue, hence the conviction is unsafe".

The appeal judges also ruled on a submission that the jail sentence imposed was "too much for this offence".

His QC submitted: "When one looks at the sentencing judge's remarks, he was clearly highly influenced by the fact that the applicant was a famous and successful footballer and, in fact, counted that against him."

The appeal moves were contested by Kate Blackwell QC, for the Crown.

An NSPCC spokesman said: “It’s frightening to think that it is still not illegal for an adult to send a sexually explicit message to a child. Johnson was able to bombard his young victim with hundreds of messages, but could only be prosecuted for physically meeting her.

“This kind of online grooming would be an offence if the messages were sent in Scotland, but police in England and Wales are still powerless to intervene because anti-sexting laws created two years ago have yet to be enacted.

“The Government’s delay in outlawing this kind of grooming is a disgrace. Hopefully today will act as reminder to Justice Secretary Liz Truss who must act urgently to fix this flaw in the law and stop abuse before it starts.”