Adam Johnson 'abused position in society to sexually touch 15-year-old fan'

Court hears former Sunderland footballer unzippped teenager's jeans for 'thank you kiss' after shirt signing

The England footballer Adam Johnson abused his “revered position in society” to touch sexually a 15-year-old star-struck fan inside his black Range Rover, a jury heard on Friday.

Mr Johnson, 28, the former Sunderland winger, unzipped the teenager’s jeans during a meeting for a “thank-you kiss” for signing two of the club’s football shirts for the girl, Bradford Crown Court heard. The girl, whose social media page included a picture of herself with Johnson, had an “enormous crush” on the footballer that he exploited for his own sexual purposes, the court was told. 

The court heard that Johnson – who had researched the “legal age of consent” on the internet before the meeting – engaged in sexual acts before driving off to a more secluded site and doing the same again.

Johnson and the girl, who had only just turned 15 at the time of the alleged offences in 2015, continued to share messages after their encounter, the court heard. Johnson told the girl “It was class” before adding “Just wanted to get your jeans off, lol”. The court heard that the girl replied: “Next time”.

“He gave her the shirts and autographs with the knowledge that she would want to please him in return,” said Kate Blackwell QC, prosecuting. “He knew her age. He knew how much she idolised him. And he knew that he could take advantage of the situation. And that is exactly what he did.”

The girl first contacted the player via Facebook and they continued to share messages until they met to sign the two shirts. In a message before the meeting, the girl made it clear that she was a Year 10 student, the court heard. In the messages, the girl also congratulated Johnson on the birth of his daughter with his partner Stacey Flounders, with whom he lived in Castle Eden, County Durham.

The girl’s own Facebook page had a picture of her wearing a Sunderland shirt with Johnson’s arm around her. The girl was a passionate Sunderland fan and Johnson was her favourite player, the court heard. The footballer was the “success story that young people can only dream of”, said Ms Blackwell.

“After matches, she would hang around waiting for a glimpse of him, keen for any contact, an autograph or, even better, a photograph,” said Ms Blackwell. “So, over the course of New Year’s Eve the defendant was made aware that [the girl] was 15, with almost another year to wait until she became 16, that she was a fervent Sunderland fan and that he was her favourite player.”

Ms Blackwell said that he had “abused his revered position in society” when he had sexual contact in a way that he knew was “morally and legally wrong”. The court heard how Johnson was messaging the girl and his partner simultaneously after the sexual activity had taken place.

“It is the Crown’s case that what has brought the defendant to this courtroom is a sexual desire for [the girl], an excessive arrogance and an unwarranted level of expectation,” she said. 

Mr Johnson was arrested after the girl told her parents about what had happened and they told the police, the court heard. The prosecutor said Johnson told police that the pair kissed “for a couple of minutes in quite a passionate way” while his hands stroked her body.

Ms Blackwell said: “He said that when he was kissing [the girl] he knew that it was wrong and therefore went no further, that he knew that it was wrong because he had a girlfriend, a family, a career and that he was upset with himself, telling himself that he should know better, that his behaviour was poor, that he had no sexual attraction to her, that he didn’t like her ‘in that way at all.”

Mr Johnson denies two counts of sexual activity with a child. He has already admitted one count of sexual activity with a child and another of meeting a child following sexual grooming. The trial continues on Monday.