Adam Johnson's immature life of entitlement

By Craig Hope

Former England soccer player Adam Johnson arrives at Bradford Crown Court. Photo / AP.
Former England soccer player Adam Johnson arrives at Bradford Crown Court. Photo / AP.

Adam Johnson told his first lie on the morning of March 2 last year, having been arrested on suspicion of sexual activity with a child.

The shaken Sunderland star gripped a bar in the games room of his mansion and insisted to the mother of his newborn baby girl: 'She said she was 16.'

In fact, serial cheat Johnson had long since been lying to his girlfriend Stacey Flounders. He also knew the young fan he had groomed and abused was 15 years old.

Later that day he admitted during a police interview to kissing the girl after arranging to meet her in his Range Rover on the promise of signing her Sunderland shirt. He was her favourite player and he used that to his advantage.

For Johnson the footballer held a misplaced belief that he was above the law. As Johnson the child-sex offender will realise now, his privileged profession was to cost him his freedom.

For during Thursday's sentencing hearing at Bradford Crown Court after he was earlier this month found guilty of sexually penetrating his victim, the one inescapable assumption was this - had Johnson not been a famous England player then he would not be waking up inside a cell to begin a six-year jail term.

The court heard a psychiatric specialist declare that Johnson had 'a cognitive distortion due to being a footballer and the attention he received from women as a result'.

In short, he thought he could have sex with whoever he wanted and when he wanted - and then get away with it, all the while abusing his status as a Premier League and international footballer.

It should serve as a sobering thought for any young player who finds himself drunk on his newfound celebrity.

It is important to remember, of course, that Johnson alone is responsible for the grooming and sexual abuse of his victim. That his status as a footballer was cited as an aggravating factor, however, is a lesson for the sport to take on board.

For as Dr Philip Hopley of the Priory Hospital told the court, if Johnson was not a footballer his 'sexual preoccupation may not have developed in the same direction and this may not have happened'.

Judge Jonathan Rose said Johnson was only able to commit these offences because of his position as a respected Sunderland player, and it was claimed that his most attractive feature to women was indeed his fame.

It was said that Johnson was in the 'clandestine habit' of meeting girls after training for sex, and that he saw the teenage season-ticket holder as 'just another girl, another opportunity, she was attractive enough, another one to get with'.

Johnson admitted he led a life of presumed entitlement in which everything was laid on for him. It had stunted his maturity and experts deemed that he was 'socially and psychologically immature'.

Even after his arrest last March, having admitted kissing and grooming the schoolgirl, he chose to protest his innocence, believing he could cheat justice.

That Sunderland allowed Johnson to carry on playing and receiving the adulation of supporters for nearly a year, despite chief executive Margaret Byrne being aware of his guilt, did little to dispel the air of arrogance that clouded his view of the enormity of his actions.

Even arriving in court, Johnson entered the dock chewing gum, chatting casually once again to the security officer by his side.

You would have thought he had learned his lesson after being reprimanded by the judge for similar behaviour at the outset of his trial.

Earlier, in one final play of deception as a free man, he sprinted into court from the opposite direction to where his Mercedes people-carrier had driven into the car park, breathing a sigh of relief as he reached the doors having outwitted the scores of photographers and cameramen.

It was the only time Johnson broke from his stony stare, for he remained void of emotion or any apparent remorse throughout the hearing, preferring instead to stand and gaze straight ahead as the judge returned his sentence.

There was just one moment of humility, and it arrived via the evidence of Dr Hopley, who said that Johnson had told him: 'Being in prison would offer some relief. I just want to let the people I have hurt get on with their lives.'

His eagerness to remove himself from the courtroom in which his life has been forensically examined in disturbing detail was evident when his barrister asked if he could be sent to prison at lunchtime rather than return for legal arguments in the afternoon.

The request was denied and Johnson returned to the dock kitted out in prison-issue grey slacks.

Even then, he did not flinch as details of his victim's overdose were discussed and reporting restrictions were lifted on a series of lurid details, including his possession of animal pornography.

By now, his mother and father had left the court. Johnson was finally alone. A disgraced former footballer who had lost everything, from his career to his girlfriend and baby to his liberty. For footballers are not above the law. Johnson has paid a high price in discovering that fact.

If he is to have any worthwhile legacy, perhaps it will be in his demise serving as a warning to others.

-DAILY MAIL

- Daily Mail

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