Former England footballer Adam Johnson fails in bid to appeal conviction

Ex-footballer Adam Johnson has failed in his attempts to appeal his conviction for sexual activity with a 15-year-old fan.

The former England player's application to appeal was rejected by three judges at the Court of Appeal where his bid for a reduction in his six-year prison sentence was also dismissed.

Johnson, 29, admitted one charge of sexual activity with a child at the start of his trial at Bradford Crown Court, which was relating to kissing her. He also admitted a charge of meeting a child with intent following grooming her.

He denied any further sexual activity took place in his Range Rover when he met her in County Durham in 2015.

But Johnson, who has played for Sunderland, was found guilty in March last year of one offence of sexual activity with a child. He was cleared of one charge relating to another sexual act.

When sentencing Johnson, Judge Jonathan Rose said he was satisfied the girl suffered "severe psychological harm" and that he took advantage of "a young teenager's adoration of a successful celebrity".

Johnson's fight against conviction was based on criticism that the trial judge "misdirected" the jury on issues of his "credibility".

Representing Johnson at a recent hearing at the Court of Appeal, Eleanor Laws QC, argued that this must have had "an adverse and unfair impact on the credibility of Adam Johnson in a case where credibility was the central issue, hence the conviction is unsafe".

But in the court's written ruling, Lady Justice Rafferty said that although the trial judge was in "error" in relation to a particular direction during summing up, "the error does not imperil the safety of the conviction".

The judges were also asked to rule on a submission that the jail sentence imposed was "too much for this offence".

His QC submitted: "When one looks at the sentencing judge's remarks, he was clearly highly influenced by the fact that the applicant was a famous and successful footballer and, in fact, counted that against him."

Dismissing the sentence application, Lady Justice Rafferty said the single judge wrote: "Although a sentence of six years may be stiff, even severe, I do not consider it to be arguable that it was manifestly excessive."

Lady Justice Rafferty added: "We agree."

The judges also agreed with Johnson's QC who had said the original trial cross-examination of Johnson was "irrelevant and emotive" for allowing questions on "Dubai, free kicks, money and name calling which were topics unlikely to help the jury and should have resulted in the judge precluding them or telling the jury to ignore them".

There was also criticism that the jury had no help with how to approach the late guilty plea.

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