Former England footballer Adam Johnson has been jailed for six years for engaging in sexual activity with a besotted 15-year-old fan by a judge who said the girl had suffered “severe psychological harm”.
Caroline Berriman, a teaching assistant, had her sentence reviewed after she avoided a prison sentence despite being found guilty of sexual intercourse with an under age boy. Berriman was later sentenced to two years after her admission of having sex with the 15-year-old student “80 times”. The boy said the situation had ‘scarred him for life’ after Berriman let her daughter call him ‘dad’ and even told him she was pregnant.
Jade Hatt, a 21 year old “immature” babysitter, was spared from prison despite having penetrative sex with a minor under her care.
There are striking similarities in the above cases, and yet entirely different outcomes in court. How is it that the law took such drastically different views on these very similar sets of circumstances?
Adam Johnson was a prominent athlete, a public figure and role model for young people; Caroline Berriman was a classroom supervisor, a micro role-model and a trust-builder in a schooling environment; and Jade Hatt was an “immature” babysitter placed in sole responsibility of a young person.
Johnson has been convicted of a sex act with a minor, and yet Caroline Berriman admitted in court to a sexual relationship with a minor which continued for a “few months”. The varied outcomes to these cases do not appear to be fair.
How is it that Berriman, a woman who was in a relationship with a vulnerable minor – a relationship, I might add, in which the pair had unprotected sex “80 times” – was sentenced to prison for a third of the time of Adam Johnson who was convicted of a sole non penetrative sex act with a minor. Furthermore, why was Jade Hatt able to completely avoid a prison sentence for sexual intercourse with a minor? They all have admitted to abusing a young person, and yet their punishments are so greatly skewed.
That is not to say that Johnson should be spared because his sentence is the most severe. He should face up to the consequences of his actions, but by that same token, so should many female abusers who have been able to walk away from court unscathed. That should not be a contentious issue whatsoever.
In Jade Hatt’s case, Hatt was described by the court as “immature” and that her personality had “narrowed the arithmetic age-gap” between her and the underage boy she had sex with, and therefore abused. She was spared from prison by the court despite her being responsible for the child as she was babysitting him.
So why will Adam Johnson be serving prison time for the next six years when women like Katie Birks, Leah Davies and Kelly Jane Richards were able to return to their homes after their court cases despite being found guilty of sleeping with underage boys?
Naturally Johnson’s ex-profession as an England footballer is a big reason behind his tougher sentencing. His role in society means that youngsters looked up to him. His contribution to society, in the eyes of very young people, is far greater than a teacher or babysitter and that therefore makes him idolised.
Because of his status, Johnson’s case was a prime opportunity for the law to demonstrate the severe consequences of abusing a young person. It was a message to prospective abusers to seriously reconsider their ideas. Johnson’s case showed the law to be firm and unyielding. If the courts could go after a professional footballer, who had all the money in the world, then they could certainly knock on your door.
That’s a strong message and it should send a cold shiver down any questionable people’s spines.
That is, of course, until you think back to those who were not punished for their crimes.
There is a real inconsistency in sentencing the abusers of young people in the UK. If a person, such as Jade Hatt, is acknowledged by the court of abusing a minor, then the court should sentence her.
We need to ask ourselves if there is ‘justice’ in the courts sending teaching assistant Caroline Berriman to prison for two years for sexual abusing a minor “80” times, whilst sending Adam Johnson to 6 years for one non penetrative sex act. Or for that matter, not punishing some abusers at all.