London - Sunderland should have suspended Adam Johnson if
they knew he had kissed a 15-year-old girl, Britain's National Society for the
Prevention of Cruelty to Children (NSPCC) said on Thursday.
Johnson, 28, was convicted of sexual activity with a child
on Wednesday. He was acquitted of another charge and had already admitted one
count of grooming and one count of sexual activity with a child.
Sunderland sacked Johnson after he admitted to those
charges, but the NSPCC said that he should not have been allowed to continue
playing for them during the police probe if the club knew about the kissing
"If they had known he had kissed a girl prior to his
guilty plea, then we think they should have suspended him pending the ongoing
investigation," a spokesman for the charity said.
"It would have sent the right message to people that
this is a serious offence and needed to be properly investigated."
During the trial, the court heard that Johnson had admitted
to kissing the girl during a meeting with Sunderland chief executive Margaret
Byrne in May last year.
Also read: Johnson guilty of under-age sex charge
Sunderland suspended Johnson following his arrest on March 2
last year, but he was allowed to return to action a fortnight later and
continued playing for the club until the weekend before his trial began last
In a statement released after Wednesday's verdicts were
delivered, Sunderland said they were stunned when Johnson pleaded guilty to two
offences on the opening day of his trial.
The Premier League club said that, had they known he was
intending to plead guilty to any of the offences, he would have been sacked
They also "refuted in the strongest possible
terms" the suggestion that they had known Johnson would change his initial
not guilty plea to guilty at the last minute in order to play for the club for
as long as possible.
Johnson, capped 12 times by England, is due to be sentenced
in two to three weeks. He was told to expect a custodial sentence by the judge
at Bradford Crown Court in northern England.
The NSPCC branded his conduct "predatory and
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