Sunderland chief executive Margaret Byrne has handed in her resignation following the controversy surrounding Adam Johnson's dismissal from the club.
Johnson's contract was terminated last month after he admitted one charge of sexual activity with a child and another for grooming, but the club were later accused of knowing about his intention to plead guilty long before the trial.
Indeed, Johnson claimed during proceedings that he had told club officials that he had kissed his 15-year-old victim after his original arrest in March, yet they allowed him to continue playing for the club for 11 months before sacking him.
Naturally, the Premier League outfit have been heavily criticised for their decision not to sack him and it has, ultimately, cost Byrne her position at the club. In a statement, Byrne admits she made a "serious mistake" by allowing Johnson to stay at the Stadium of Light but maintains she had no idea he had intended to plead guilty.
Byrne said: "Contrary to what has been suggested, I did not understand that Mr Johnson intended to change his plea at trial or at all. I was astounded when he did plead guilty. I accept that Mr Johnson should not have been permitted to play again, irrespective of what he was going to plead. It was a serious error of judgement and I accept full responsibility for this."
Fleeing the country
To hear of Byrne's resignation comes as no surprise after the Guardian reported over the weekend that she had fled the country over the backlash she received.
She had originally been scheduled to be a defence witness in Johnson's trial but failed to take the stand and had not been seen since. It is assumed she, like former team-mate Steven Fletcher, reneged on her agreement to defend him after learning of the guilty pleas.
There was evidence to suggest that Byrne, a former criminal lawyer, had copies of Johnson's original police interview, where he admitted kissing the girl.
A Durham police detective is believed to have asked the club for Byrne's whereabouts. They reportedly told them that she was staying in a villa in Portugal.
While Johnson admitted two of the charges placed against him, he denied two more serious charges relating to sexual contact with an underage girl. He was later found guilty by a 10-2 majority on one of those counts but cleared of the other.
Now out on bail and awaiting his sentence, Johnson is believed to be considering an appeal although nothing has been heard from his defence team since the verdict last week.
The judge has told Johnson to expect a significant spell in prison of between four and 10 years.
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