Johnson 'not to blame' for Sunderland AFC's decision to play him after he admitted kissing underage girl

Adam Johnson
Adam Johnson

Adam Johnson's barrister has urged jurors not to blame the footballer for Sunderland's decision to continue to play him in the squad after admitting kissing an underage girl.

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Orlando Pownall QC has closed the case for the defence at Bradford Crown Court.

Johnson has denied two counts of sexual activity with a child, despite admitting charges of kissing and grooming.

Mr Pownall told jurors that Johnson is "not a man of honour" - but that does not mean has done what he is accused of.

He told the court:"Whatever your verdict, Mr Johnson will have to take responsibility and pay the price for his actions.

"He has lost his job, he has been dropped by his sponsors and he will be the subject of criticism both publicly and privately for years to come."

He added that whatever they though of the girl's contribution in the events that unfolded, she was a child and should have been "protected".

Read more: Jury urged to see through Adam Johnson’s ‘deceit and lies’ and convict him of child sex offences

Mr Pownall also told the court that the verdict should be determined through focusing on the main issue at hand, as opposed to a number of small issues or "sideshows" - such as the time of Mr Johnson's guilty plea, or that he continued to play professional football.

The court heard in evidence that SAFC were made aware of Johnson's admissions in police interview "from the start" and knew from at least May last year.

The barrister continued: "It's plain that [the club] knew exactly what was going on. They had the statements, they did have Mr Johnson's interview and they chose in that situation, rightly or wrongly, they may have had commercial considerations or it could be that the club was facing relegation and that they didn't want to lose one of their players, they allowed him to continue playing."

Johnson's barrister also reminded the jury that the girl had told a number of lies when speaking to police and giving evidence at the trial last week.

These included what she did when dropped off by Mr Johnson after the first meeting, what she told her friends and where Johnson's car was facing.

Mr Pownall explained that people may lie because the truth may harm them, to protect someone, because they had panicked or because no one would believe them.

Both Johnson and the girl are guilty of the latter two, he added.

While Johnson told lies to police, he has been truthful in the dock, the barrister has said, while the girl continued to lie under oath about points in her story, which no other witnesses have since corroborated, he said.

The jury were also reminded that the girl asked her friends to lie to police about what she had told them regarding the alleged sex act she performed, and to delete data from their mobile phones.

Mr Pownall claimed that the girl did not want to "lose face" after being caught out making up what had happened between her and Johnson - and that is why she reported the crimes to the police as rumours spread.

"However reluctant one might be to criticise the girl and however one might wish to prefer her word over that of a man who is unfaithful to his girlfriend and didn't deserve that relationship, we respectfully submit that the choice that the girl made was different from the choice that anyone intending on telling the truth would have made," Mr Pownall said.

He continued to criticise parts of the police investigation, including why house to house inquiries were not carried out, why there was no number plate data was recovered for Johnson's vehicle on the night of the second meeting to determine what time he left and why no CCTV was available.

Police officers giving evidence for the prosecution last week confirmed that the "sensitive nature" of the case was the reason for no door knocks being done, and that the other data was looked for but there was none available.

Johnson may have said many inappropriate things to the underage girl, his barrister said in closing, but it is a key point that these messages were electronic.

Mr Pownall added: "The messages sent and received didn't necessarily indicate what was going to happen.

"There is a world of difference between desire, expectation and reality."

Mr Pownall also urged jurors to consider evidence heard about a third meeting between Johnson and the girl, which did not happen.

It was heard that the girl had bragged to her best friend about Johnson giving her £50 to spend on a trip but when asked about if it had really happened, she said it was a joke and that she was "bigging up" her contact with him.

The footballer's barrister called it a "dreadful lie".

It was also heard in evidence that the girl had bragged she was going to have full sex with Johnson at a third meeting which had been arranged, and then cancelled because Johnson could not go.

The girl told police in interview that the date of this arranged meeting was a "normal" day.

It was the day following this that she first reported the offences to officers.

Mr Pownall added that "Pandora's box had been opened" when rumours began to circulate about the girl, and she panicked.

He ended his speech by saying that Johnson's behaviour did not go beyond what he has already, admitted and invited the jury to acquit his client of the further and more serious charges.

In finishing his summing up, Mr Pownall said: "Mr Johnson is deserving of little. Not of your sympathy, not your approval in respect of any aspect of his behaviour but he is deserving of one thing if nothing else, and that it is a clear and fair dispassionate consideration of all of the evidence."