(CNN)Former England soccer star Adam Johnson has been jailed for six years after being found guilty of three child sex charges.
Prosecutors told Bradford Crown Court the 28-year-old’s offences were “calculated, considered and carefully orchestrated,” according to a report by the Press Association.
Kate Blackwell QC said the victim, who was 15 at the time, had suffered “severe psychological harm.” In a statement the victim said she’d “entered many dark places” in the past year.
Sacked by English Premier League club Sunderland in the wake of his conviction, Johnson admitted to grooming a girl under the age of 16 and one charge of sexual activity but was found guilty of a further charge he had contested.
They related to an incident in Johnson’s car on January 30, 2015, after he met up with the girl — a Sunderland fan. Police said Johnson initially told them he was unaware of the girl’s true age and claimed he only kissed her.
The girl told the court that Johnson put his hands down her pants and that she performed an oral sex act on him. The charge related to the girl performing oral sex on him wasn’t proved and Johnson was cleared.
“Compulsive” attitude to sex
Sentencing, Judge Jonathan Rose told Johnson: “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.
“The offences happened at a time when you were engaged in frequent sexual intercourse with multiple partners.”
Johnson’s partner Stacey Flounders, with whom he has a one-year-old daughter, was not present in court. She earlier told the trial they were no longer a couple.
Judge Rose added that Johnson had “every opportunity” to enter guilty pleas to the charges he admitted once the trial had started and that decision meant the girl had to endure a year of being called a liar.
The aggravating factors included Johnson’s insistence their messages on social media were disposed of, the secluded location of the offence and his attempts to prevent the girl from reporting the matter.
Johnson was also ordered to pay 50,000 ($70,000) of the prosecution’s costs, which totaled 67,132 ($94,709).
Prison would offer “relief”
Johnson’s defence team said he had “a compulsive attitude towards engaging in sexual activity,” and that he had been stripped of his 12 England caps and nationally humiliated.
A doctor’s report read out in court quoted Johnson as saying: “Being in prison would offer some relief. I just want to let people I have hurt get on with their lives.”
Detective Inspector Aelfwynn Sampson, of Durham Constabulary, told reporters after the verdict: “This girl should have been safe but she was used by the public figure she looked up to most.
“Fame, celebrity and a position of power does not give you the right to break the law in pursuit of whatever you desire. I hope today will bring some closure for her and her family.”
Prior to Johnson’s sentencing, the National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children (NSPCC) urged the Football Association — English football’s governing body — to take the issue more seriously.
Its chief executive, Peter Wanless, said urgent action was required to ensure the Johnson case was not symptomatic of a “cultural problem within football.”
Johnson’s sister, who set up a support group for her brother on Facebook in the wake of his conviction, said she wouldn’t be attending sentencing.
She maintained she was 100 per cent behind him and said it was “the worst day of my life.” She added: “I just don’t want him to see the pain in my eyes!”
Johnson, who made the last of his 12 appearances for England in August 2012, was arrested in March 2015 and was initially suspended by Sunderland before returning to the team a fortnight later.
Sunderland, which had initially declined to comment on the grounds the case was ongoing, then chose to sack the midfielder last month in light of his guilty plea.
The club sought to clarify its stance, saying had it known that Johnson would plead guilty at any time it would have terminated his employment “immediately.”
“This has been an extremely difficult time for all involved,” Sunderland said in a statement on its website. “The victim and her family have endured an unimaginable ordeal in the last 12 months and we trust that they will now be allowed to move on with their lives without further intrusion or public scrutiny.”
The club’s chief executive Margaret Byrne resigned after it emerged she knew a year before the trial that Johnson had kissed the 15-year-old and sent explicit messages to her but allowed him to carry on playing.
Sportswear firm Adidas also confirmed to CNN last month that it had terminated its sponsorship deal with the player following his guilty plea.
Johnson began his career at Middlesbrough before moving to Manchester City and then to Sunderland. While playing for City between 2010 and 2012, Johnson won the Premier League title and the FA Cup.