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Footballer Johnson fails to get child sex conviction quashed

By Cathy Gordon

Former England footballer Adam Johnson has lost a challenge against his conviction for sexual activity with a 15-year-old fan.

His application for permission to appeal was dismissed by three judges in London yesterday.

The Court of Appeal also rejected his bid for a reduction of his six-year jail sentence.

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

He denied there was any further sexual activity with her when the pair met up in Co Durham in January 2015.

But the former Sunderland and Manchester City winger was found guilty by a jury in March last year of one offence of sexual activity with a child.

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

Eleanor Laws QC, representing Johnson at a recent hearing at the Court of Appeal, argued 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 Johnson case led to the resignation of Sunderland chief executive Margaret Byrne, who is from Co Armagh.

She quit after admitting "a serious error of judgment" in allowing Johnson to play for the club while on bail despite being party to evidence indicating he was guilty of grooming and sexual activity with a child.

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