The detective who led the Adam Johnson case said the fallen footballer "exploited his position as a local hero" to sexually abuse his teenage victim.
Detective Inspector Aelfwynn Sampson, of Durham Constabulary, said: “Adam Johnson was a Premiership footballer, an England international.
“He was living most schoolboys’ dreams of playing professional football for his hometown club.
“In this football-obsessed region he was idolised by thousands.
“However, Johnson exploited his position as a local hero to take advantage of a young and impressionable girl.
“This was not a case where he didn’t know how old a girl was. From the start of their contact, he knew full well that she had just turned 15 and yet this did not stop him.
“The law is clear. The legal age of consent is set at 16 to protect young people.
“He no doubt thought that he would get away it, but today demonstrates that no one is above the law.
“We would like to thank the victim for her courage in coming forward and her family for supporting her through this incredibly difficult time over the 12 months it has taken to reach this conclusion.
“I hope this case demonstrates that the police and Crown Prosecution Service take all allegations of sexual abuse extremely seriously.
“We would encourage people with any information about sexual abuse or who has been a victim of sexual abuse to come forward and report their concerns confident in the knowledge it will be investigated appropriately and with sensitivity."