Former England footballer Adam Johnson has been jailed for six years for engaging in sexual activity with a besotted 15-year-old fan.
Johnson, 28, showed no emotion as he was sentenced at Bradford Crown Court by Judge Jonathan Rose.
The former Sunderland and Manchester City winger was found guilty of sexual activity with the teenager following an incident in his Range Rover in County Durham last year. He admitted another charge of sexual activity with a child and grooming the girl.
Johnson stood with his hands behind his back as the judge – who said the girl had “suffered severe psychological harm” – passed sentence.
The judge said the victim had been a Sunderland fan who would wait after matches to take pictures of her “favourite player”, Johnson, who had known her age.
He said: “That was known to you – to put it another way she had only just turned 15 when you began grooming her, because as you were to admit you found her sexually attractive.” He added that the footballer’s intention had been to engage in sexual activity with her, knowing that she was under 16.
The judge said Johnson had exchanged more than 800 messages with her, which had largely been innocent.
But he added: “You continued in your grooming of this girl even after you were engaged in sexual activity with her. You wanted no-one to know that you and she were exchanging messages.
“You asked her to find a place to meet that was private and secluded so no-one would see you in her company.”
Judge Rose told Johnson the offences happened “at a time when you were engaged in frequent sexual intercourse with multiple partners”.
He said: “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.” He said: “Your future as a professional footballer must be in doubt.”
Judge Rose told him that he had “every opportunity” to enter guilty pleas to the charges he finally admitted.
The judge said Johnson’s decision not to plead guilty meant that the girl was subjected to a year of being called a liar, including having this being chanted by football fans.
He said she reached her “lowest ebb” after giving evidence in the trial.
Judge Rose said the aggravating factors included the secluded location of the offence, Johnson’s “disposal” of social media evidence and attempts to stop the girl reporting the matter.
He added: “She speaks of entering many dark places in that year and said she had suffered bullying and stress and had underachieved at school as a result of the case.” She had suffered sadness, anger and confusion which had been “exasperated” because of the footballer’s status and standing, he said.