Adam Johnson should not be allowed to return to football after prison release for sex offence, says Labour MP Clive Efford
Adam Johnson should not be allowed to return to his football career after being released from prison later this month, Labour MP Clive Efford has told talkSPORT.
Johnson will reportedly leave HM Prison Moorland on March 22 after serving half a six-year sentence handed to him in March 2016.
The former England winger, who was sacked by Sunderland a month before being jailed, was found guilty by a majority verdict of grooming and sexual activity with a girl aged 15.
Jonathan Rose, the judge presiding over the case, claimed Johnson’s ‘calculated, considered and carefully orchestrated’ abuse of his celebrity status left the girl with ‘severe psychological harm’.
As well as his prison sentence, Johnson was also placed on the sex offender register for the remainder of his life.
There has been no suggestion as to whether Johnson will look to return to his football career upon his release from Moorland, and Efford believes the 31-year-old should NOT be allowed to find a new club due to his conviction – as should any footballer on the sex offender register.
“It’s not just about this one case,” Efford, who was Shadow Minister for Culture, Media and Sport from 2011-16, told Jim White on talkSPORT.
“It’s a general principle that footballers have a special status in the community – they are role models for young people – so I think if people are on the sex offender register that position [footballer] should be included in those professions that are restricted.
“Footballers are asked to go out and do things in the community; they get involved with young people in the activities football clubs get involved with in the communities they are based.
“So it stands to reason that somebody who is on the sex offenders register should not be in that role.
“Is [football] an appropriate place for somebody who’s a convicted sex offender – who’s on that register – to ply their trade?
“My position is – I don’t think it is. Because he’s in a position where, whether you like it or not, young people look up to footballers.
“I don’t think somebody who has a conviction and who is on that register is the sort of role model we want.
“If a player is on the sex offender register they shouldn’t be a professional footballer – that’s my view.”
Should Johnson seek out a new club following his release, clubs are well within their legal rights to refuse to employ him based upon his conviction.
Phillip Landau, an employment law solicitor who is a partner at Landau Law, explained Johnson will not be able to take a case against a club for being prejudiced against him for having a conviction; it is the club’s choice to employee him with full knowledge of his sexual offence, which always has to be disclosed should an employer ask.
Mr Landau said: “It will be down to the clubs and the clubs alone whether they decide to employee him or not.
“The legal position is that refusing to employ someone for having a conviction of this nature cannot be the clause of a legal claim. There’s no obligation for an employer to engage in a reasonable or rational decision making when choosing to not employee somebody because they have an unspent and serious conviction.
“So it’s down to the clubs and the clubs alone.
“They [the clubs] can turn around and say: ‘we don’t want to employ him and we don’t have to employ him. We don’t like what he’s done’ – they can do that, yes.”