Adam Johnson searched "legal age of consent" on his phone days after engaging in sexual activity with a child who "idolised" the footballer, a court has heard. The England international was described as acting in way which was both "morally and legally wrong" for allegedly arranging to meet up with a girl he knew was 15-year-old after exchanging messages on social media and WhatsApp.
Johnson is said to have met up with the girl on two occasions, including once for sexual contact in his Land Rover. During the trial at Bradford Crown Court, the jury was read messages between the pair, including one on New Year's Eve 2014 when Johnson asked the girl when she turned 16 – November was her reply – and one where discussing what time they should meet up, to which the girl said: "I'm having a lie in on my last day off school."
The court heard how Johnson was the child's favourite player and even owned a Sunderland football shirt with his name on the back.
Kate Blackwell QC, prosecuting, said: "Her [the girl] real passion was Sunderland Football Club. She was a season ticket holder and rarely missed a home game and her favourite player was Adam Johnson.
"After matches, she would hang around waiting for a glimpse of him, wanting to get a photograph, often sporting a Sunderland shirt with Johnson's name emblazoned across the back. She often waited for him after home matches, hoping to catch a glimpse of him before he drove away, keen for any contact, an autograph or, even better, a photograph. She had one enormous crush on him. He was her absolute hero. She idolised him."
Facebook friend request
During the first day of the trial, the jury heard how Johnson first arranged to meet up with the girl, who cannot be named for legal reasons, to give her a signed Sunderland shirt after swapping numbers when he accepted her Facebook friend request. The pair met in his car behind a Chinese takeaway on 17 January 2015 just over two weeks after they began texting each other. During the first meeting, said to have lasted around 20 minutes, Johnson gave the girl the shirt and talked about football.
After the girl messaged Johnson to thank him for the shirt, the 28-year-old is alleged to have replied with "thought I would've got a thank you kiss for the shirt" before arranging another meeting.
Johnson is then said to have then asked the girl prior to the next meeting: "Am I only getting a kiss?" to which the girl replied: "Depends what you're asking for." Johnson added: "Depends what you're up for – a little bit more than kissing. A bit of feeling."
Johnson is accused of engaging in sexual activity on their second meeting in his Land Rover on 30 January. The court heard how afterwards Johnson messaged her: "It was class – just wanted to get your jeans off."
After policed searched through Johnson's phone following his arrest, officers found his search history is alleged to have included "legal age of consent" in the days after the alleged sexual activity.
Blackwell added: "What has brought the defendant to this courtroom is a sexual desire for the victim, an excessive arrogance and an unwarranted level of expectation.
"He has abused his revered position in society and, having met her, this 15-year-old girl, at Sunderland Football Club and on social media, and knowing that she looked up to him, made a conscious decision to act in a way that he knew was both morally and legally wrong."
Johnson denies two counts of engaging in sexual activity with a child. The trial continues.