Football: Sunderland's Johnson charged with sex offences

LONDON (AFP) - Sunderland midfielder Adam Johnson has been charged with three offences of sexual activity with a child under the age of 16 and one of grooming, Durham Police said Wednesday.

The 27-year-old England international attended a police station to answer his bail, where he was charged, Durham Police said.

He was initially arrested on Monday March 2, and will appear at Peterlee Magistrates' Court in County Durham, north-east England, next month.

"Following an investigation by Durham Police, I have today authorised police to charge Adam Johnson, aged 27, with four offences under the Sexual Offences Act 2003. The offences are alleged to have been committed on one girl aged 15 at the time," Gerry Wareham, the Crown Prosecution Service's chief crown prosecutor for the north-east, said in a statement.

Wareham added prosecutors had concluded there was a "realistic prospect of conviction" and that it was in the "public interest" to charge Johnson with one offence of meeting a child following sexual grooming, and three offences of sexual activity with a child. The alleged offences date from Dec 30, 2014 to Feb 26, 2015.

Wareham's statement also said that Johnson had a right to a fair trial and that nothing should appear online "which could in any way prejudice these proceedings," and that the complainant in this case was entitled to lifelong anonymity under the law.

"For these reasons, it would be inappropriate for me to comment further," Wareham said.

Johnson was initially suspended by Sunderland pending the outcome of police investigations but, after consultations with the Professional Footballers' Association, he was allowed to resume training and has been a regular for the Premier League strugglers this season.

Capped 12 times by England, Johnson began his career with Middlesbrough and returned to his native north-east in 2012 when he joined Sunderland from Manchester City in a £10 million (S$30 million) deal.

Sunderland, just a point above the relegation zone, are away to Stoke on Saturday.