Judge jails Illawarra netball predator Adam Johnson

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DISGRACED Illawarra netball umpire Adam Johnson has been jailed over the online grooming of two teenagers, including a girl he was supposed to have been mentoring. 

The married Johnson will spend at least a year behind bars for his “baffling” attempts at explicit online courtship, which came just five years after he narrowly avoided prison for similar behavior in the ACT. 

In Wollongong District Court on Friday, Judge Andrew Haesler shut down suggestions from Johnson’s lawyer, that he had acted out as a result of stressful events in his life, including the July 2016 death of this mother, former Dapto Netball Club president Jackie Johnson. 

“He knew in the past he had a problem with underage girls and he took advantage of his connections with the sport of netball to again commit these offences," Judge Haesler said. “And that’s the most puzzling thing, because his mother had a legacy of commitment to … sport in this area and she’d only just died. I’m impressed by his family sticking by him, because he’s reduced his mother’s legacy by his actions.” 

Now aged 26, Johnson began sending explicit photographs of himself to a 15-year-old girl in February 2016, “within days” of his good behaviour bond expiring. He pursued the girl across platforms, despite her repeated rebuffs, the Crown told the court. 

“He has ... chased that victim from one social media site to another, tracking her down and sending images to her even though she’s, a number of times, told him not to contact her and to leave her alone. He changed his user name to continue to track her down, even after she’d blocked him.” 

He began grooming another teen via Facebook in late July 2016, after offering her mentoring. Records show he steered their conversations towards personal topics, including sex. 

The court heard Johnson had undergone counselling since his conviction, in 2012 in the ACT Supreme Court, of seven counts of using a carriage service to transmit indecent communication with a person under 16. 

He wrote a set of guidelines for avoiding similar offending, telling himself to “stay off Facebook after 8.30pm ... have no one under 16 on Facebook apart from family and friends”. 

In court on Friday, Johnson’s lawyer said experts had been unable to explain his client’s “baffling” tendency to seek out underage girls, and that Johnson himself was “bewildered by his behavior” and wanted to change.

Judge Haesler opted to place Johnson under supervision for an extended period, upon his release from prison. He was convicted of both matters and jailed for two years and three months, with a non-parole period of one year and one month. He is to be released to parole on March 10, 2018, and his total term will expire on May 10, 2019. 

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