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Sunderland should have banned Johnson - charity

03 March 2016, 17:17

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 incident.

"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 month.

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 immediately.

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 inexcusable".

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