Thursday 3 March 2016

Sunderland Defend Conduct In Adam Johnson Case

Sunderland have denied in the strongest possible terms any prior knowledge of Adam Johnson's guilty pleas at his Bradford trial. Johnson was sacked by the club after admitting a charge of grooming and and another of sexual activity with a child on the first day of the trial last month.

The England international denied two further counts of sexual activity with a child but has now been told he faces jail after he was cleared of one charge and found guilty of the other. Johnson, who plans to appeal the guilty verdict he fought in court, claimed he met with his QC Orlando Pownall and Sunderland chief executive Margaret Byrne on May 4 last year and admitted kissing the girl.

Sunderland has now released a statement denying Johnson claim and this is the content of the statement “The club's CEO was present during part of that meeting. During the time that she was present there was no suggestion whatsoever that Mr Johnson would be changing his plea......Following that meeting, Mr Johnson again confirmed to the club, presumably on advice from his own legal team, that his intention was to defend the charges in their entirety and he was confident of success once all evidence had been considered. He subsequently entered not guilty pleas to all charges on 6 June 2015.  The club did not give evidence either for the prosecution or the defence in this case. It was therefore not present in court when it is understood that a suggestion was made that the club knew all along that Mr Johnson was intending to change his plea just before trial to enable him to continue to play football for the club and that the club may also have been involved in tactical discussions about the plea. This is utterly without foundation and is refuted in the strongest possible terms. The club never placed any pressure or demands on Mr Johnson to play football during this process. Decisions in relation to the pleas and the conduct of the trial have been left entirely to Mr Johnson and his highly experienced and skilled legal team. Mr Johnson has admitted in evidence that he changed his plea "on legal advice. The club only became aware of the change of plea, in relation to two of the four counts on the indictment, on the first day of the trial, after hearing it reported through the media. The club was not advised in advance that Mr Johnson would plead guilty to any offence. Had the club known that Mr Johnson intended to plead guilty to any of these charges, then his employment would have been terminated immediately. Indeed, upon learning of the guilty plea on 11 February 2016, the club acted quickly and decisively in terminating Adam Johnson's contract without notice”.

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