Adam Johnson to be sentenced for sexual activity with a child: 24...

Adam Johnson to be sentenced for sexual activity with a child: 24 March 2016

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On 24 March 2016, Adam Johnson will be sentenced for two offences of sexual activity with a child and one offence of grooming.

What happened?

Adam Johnson, the former Sunderland and England footballer was arrested on 2 March 2015. He was later charged with three offences of sexual activity with a girl under 16 (contrary to s.9 Sexual Offences Act 2003) and one count of grooming (contrary to s.15 Sexual Offences Act 2003).

The offences alleged were:

a. oral sex (the victim performing oral sex upon Johnson)

b. kissing

c. touching

d. grooming

At the start of his trial (on 10 February 2016) he pleaded guilty to one of the allegations of sexual activity and the grooming charge. The sexual activity with a child charge he pleaded guilty to was in relation to kissing the girl while in his Range Rover. The grooming was in relation to the messages sent to the girl prior to them meeting.

Johnson stood his trial on the remaining two counts and the jury gave their verdicts on 2 March 2016, convicted him of one of the two counts, by a majority of 10-2. The count of which he was convicted pertained to sexual touching.

During the trial the victim alleged that Johnson “put his hands down [her] pants” and touched her sexually. It appears that the jury believed the victim in that regard as they convicted him in relation to sexual touching. It is unclear whether or not the touching involved penetration.


The maximum sentence for grooming is 10 years.

The maximum sentence for sexual activity with a child is 14 years.

The sentencing guidelines contain guidelines on both offences.

The factual basis for sentencing (i.e. is it penetrative activity or not) will determine the length of sentence. This is probably a Category A offence on the basis there is a significant disparity in age, there was grooming, and potentially there was a breach of trust. Additionally, the gifting of signed shirts by Johnson to the victim could be seen as an aggravating feature if it was considered to be an inducement to engage in sexual activity. Category 1 offences are those involving penetration. Category 2 offences are those involving touching or exposure of naked genitalia or breasts. Category 3 offences are those which do not fall into either Category 1 or 2.

A Category 1A offence has a starting point of five years.

A Category 2A offence has a starting point of three years.

A Category 3A offence has a starting point of 26 weeks.

It is important to remember that there are three offences here.

The least serious sexual activity with a child offence (involving the kissing) is a Category 3A offence. There was a guilty plea and so the sentence is probably worth – alone – around 16-18 months.

The more serious sexual activity with a child offence is difficult to place within the guidelines without further information in relation to the nature of the activity. However it would seem to attract a starting point of 26 weeks – at the very least. This would be on the basis that the touching was over her clothes. It does seem likely that, on the basis that the victim’s account as to the nature of the activity was found to be true, this is most likely to be a Category 1A offence. That attracts a starting point of five years.

The judge is of course concerned with the total sentence – is that proportionate to the seriousness of the offences. As such, he may impose consecutive sentences or alternatively increase the sentence on the most serious offence to reflect all the offending.

We would expect a sentence of around five years’ imprisonment.

The court may also impose a sexual harm prevention order preventing Johnson from contacting females under the age of 16 and being with them unaccompanied by an adult. We have a fact sheet on those orders here and a fact sheet on the previous legislation, the SOPO, here.

Johnson will also have to “sign the sex offender’s register” – this is formally known as notification. We have a fact sheet on the effect of that here.

We will of course consider the sentence (and any published sentencing remarks) on Thursday 24 March 2016. But one thing seems pretty clear; Johnson will be spending his first weekend in prison over Easter.