Adam Johnson sentencing: All you need to know as footballer faces jail

As Adam Johnson awaits sentencing after admitting two charges relating to a girl under 16, and being found guilty of another, we look at what happens next in the legal process.

Monday, 21st March 2016, 2:09 pm
Updated Monday, 21st March 2016, 2:40 pm
Adam Johnson at Bradford Crown Court. Pic: Owen Humphreys/PA Wire

Why is Adam Johnson not already behind bars?

When an individual is charged with a serious offence, it is for the courts to consider if the person should be held on remand or released on bail.

Adam Johnson and Orlando Pownall in Bradford Crown Court. Sketch by JULIA QUENZLER

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It is the same situation after an offender has been convicted. In this case, the judge has allowed Johnson to remain out of custody.

He told the footballer: “I am giving bail so you can say goodbye to your baby daughter, and anticipate a prison sentence that means you will not see her for some time.”

The 28-year-old former Sunderland player is due to be sentenced in the next two weeks.

Recap on the trial as it happened on our court feedHow long a sentence will Adam Johnson get and where will he serve his time?

Adam Johnson was convicted of a serious charge of sexual activity with a 15-year-old, and cleared of a further offence, while he had already admitted grooming and kissing the same girl.

After pleading guilty to grooming and one count of sexual activity with a girl under 16, and being convicted of another charge, the judge warned Adam Johnson that a jail sentence is “almost inevitable”.

The starting point for his offending is five years.

As previously reported, it’s believed Johnson will serve his time in HMP Frankland on the outskirts of Durham City.

The jail, one of the country’s toughest, houses 808 Category A and B prisoners serving four or more years.

Adam Johnson and Orlando Pownall in Bradford Crown Court. Sketch by JULIA QUENZLER

Inmates include notorious child killers Ian Huntley and Levi Bellfield.

Will Johnson’s two guilty pleas get him a lesser sentence?

Offenders dealt with in our criminal courts are entitled to a reduction in sentence for timely guilty pleas.

This is to encourage offenders to face up to their guilt and to prevent further inconvenience and distress to victims.

Adam Johnson was convicted of a serious charge of sexual activity with a 15-year-old, and cleared of a further offence, while he had already admitted grooming and kissing the same girl.

In particular, victims are spared the ordeal of giving evidence, reliving the crimes and being challenged on what they say is the truth.

Credit for a plea at the earliest opportunity is capped at 33% of what the imposed sentence would be following a conviction after the trial.

On the day of the trial the reduction is capped at 10% of the sentence.

Where an offender admits some but not all offences and a trial takes place, especially where a trial is needed to determine the more serious allegations, it is unlikely that the earlier guilty pleas will have any effect on the total sentence.

Can Johnson expect a heavier sentence because of his status as a professional footballer?

If an offender is found to have exploited a high-profile position or a position as a role model, this is likely to have a big impact on the sentence handed down.

This is one of the key factors in sentencing guidelines a judge may consider when categorising the offence in the first instance.

How does sentencing work?

Guilty pleas

If a defendant pleads guilty at a Crown Court to all charges, the judge will pass sentence, often after an adjournment.

First, the judge will hear the prosecution summary of the case facts, and be told if the defendant has previous convictions and of any offences be taken into consideration,

The judge will also consider any statement about the impact of a crime from the victim – and hear mitigation from the defendant’s counsel.

Found guilty after trial

Sentencing after a Crown Court trial follows a similar pattern, though the judge, having presided in it, will not normally need to hear detail of the offences again.

If no other factors apply – for example the defendant is not deemed dangerous – they can expect, if they behave well in prison, to be released ‘on licence’ halfway through the term imposed by the court.

On release they will be monitored by a probation officer.

A released prisoner who breaks any condition of the licence, for instance by committing a further crime, can be returned to prison to serve the remainder of the jail term.

The Sex Offenders Register

The Sex Offenders Register is a list of all individuals convicted, cautioned, or released from prison for a sexual offence against children or adults since 1997.

The register was first established by the Sex Offenders Act 1997 and amended by the Sexual Offences Act 2003.

The register is not “retro-active,” meaning that it does not cover anyone guilty of these offences before it came into being in 1997.

A whole range of offences, from rape to lesser crimes such as voyeurism, can require notification, regardless of the age of the victim.

All convicted sex offenders must register with the police within three days of their conviction or release from prison.

Notification will be provided to the police by the courts following conviction, and both the prisons and probation service following an offender’s release back into the community – this will enable the police to monitor when individuals must come to register.

What information is held on the register?

The following information must be provided when an offender registers with the police:

• Their name and any other names which they may use.

• Their address and any other address where they regularly stay.

• Their date of birth.

• Their national insurance number.

• Details of any passports which they may hold.

If an individual does not register within three days they will be guilty of a criminal offence, which in some cases can carry a term of imprisonment.

How long does an offender remain on the register?

A convicted sex offender must not only register initially when convicted or released from prison, they must continually continue this registration on an annual basis.

The length of time an individual will remain on the register will depend on the offence which they have committed and the sentence which they have been given.

Accordingly, the length of time on the register will be calculated according to the following sentences:

• Life imprisonment, imprisonment for more than 30 months or imprisonment and admission to hospital under a restriction order – placed on the sex offenders register indefinitely.

• Imprisonment for more than six months but not less than 30 months – 10 years.

• Imprisonment for 6 months or less – they will be placed on the sex offenders register for seven years.

• If an individual has been cautioned for an offence under the Sexual Offences Act they will be placed on the sex offenders register for two years. In this case if the offender was under 18 they will be placed on the register for one year.

Appeals procedure

It’s thought that Johnson may appeal his sentencing. If he does this is what will happen:

• Appeals from crown court are heard by judges of the Queen’s Bench Division (although other High court judges may also sit at the request of the Lord Chief Justice), who share the work of the Court of Appeal with the Lords Justices of Appeal.

• The Lord Chancellor may also appoint a circuit judge to sit with a High Court judge for a criminal appeal.

• The accused’s right of appeal on a point of law from a crown court trial is automatic.

• Other appeals by the accused from a crown court trial require leave of the trial judge or the Court of Appeal.

• The Court of Appeal, may, if it allows the appeal, quash a conviction.

• It may order a new trial at crown court and also has power to substitute a conviction for a different offence.

• It does not have power to increase the sentence imposed by the crown court, but can order that the time spend in custody awaiting the hearing should not count towards the sentence.

Appeals beyond the Court of Appeal go to the Supreme Court.