Abuse campaigners speak out as Adam Johnson could face prison move

Former Sunderland footballer Adam Johnson pictured at Bradford Crown Court. Picture: Peter Byrne/PA Wire
Former Sunderland footballer Adam Johnson pictured at Bradford Crown Court. Picture: Peter Byrne/PA Wire

Abuse campaigners today said that shamed footballer Adam Johnson could benefit from being moved to a lower security prison as he serves a six-year sentence for sexual activity with a schoolgirl.

The ex- Sunderland winger was last month found guilty of one count of sexual activity with a 15-year-old girl, while also found not guilty of a similar offence.

Ahead of his trial, the 28-year-old, of Castle Eden, had admitted one count of grooming and a less serious charge of sexual activity.

Johnson is at Armley jail in Leeds, but it has been suggested that he could serve the remainder of his time in a Category B or C facility, rather than a Category A, such as HMP Frankland, in Durham, which counts Soham murderer Ian Huntley among its inmates.

That could be HMP Holme House, in Stockton, which has its own all-weather pitch and offers offenders jobs in its canteen.

HMP Durham, also a Category B jail, offers access to an astroturf playing field.

Clare Phillipson, of Wearside Women in Need, said putting the former England star in a lower category prison could help to rehabilitate him and others, something which national charity the NSPCC agrees with.

“As an organisation we believe in rehabilitation and that people can change,” said Ms Phillipson.

“If Adam Johnson can use his footballing skills to help other prisoners, perhaps encourage them to get fitter rather than return to a life of criminality, then that can only be a good thing.

“Isn’t prison supposed to be about rehabilitation as well as punishment?”

A spokeswoman for the NSPCC said: “Whichever prison Johnson serves in, he should undergo a sex offenders treatment programme so he understands the damage he has inflicted on his young victim and to reduce the possibility of committing further offences.”

“Without proper rehabilitation sex offenders can continue to pose a risk to vulnerable children.”