Cricketer Alex Hepburn was just ‘promiscuous’ say lawyers as they appeal his conviction for raping sleeping woman during sexual conquest ‘game’
- Ex-Worcestershire player Alex Hepburn, 24, raped a student, 23, on April 1, 2017
- It was after she had consensual sex with flatmate Joe Clarke in Worcester home
- Victim said that the attack left her with facial paralysis and longstanding PTSD
- Hepburn had helped set up a sex challenge game with professional cricketers
- Lawyer told court messages were irrelevant to whether Hepburn would force sex
Ex-Worcestershire star Alex Hepburn (pictured last year), 24, raped a student, 23, after she had consensual sex with flatmate Joe Clarke in their Worcester flat on April 1, 2017
A cricketer appealing his five-year jail sentence for raping a woman in a sexual conquest game with teammates was just ‘promiscuous,’ his lawyer said today.
Ex-Worcestershire star Alex Hepburn, 24, raped a student, 23, after she had consensual sex with flatmate Joe Clarke in their Worcester flat on April 1, 2017.
The victim said the attack left her with facial paralysis and longstanding PTSD when she spoke out after a jury convicted him of oral rape at Worcester Crown Court last April.
Australian Hepburn helped set up a misogynistic sex challenge with other professional cricketers via a WhatsApp group chat where members competed to sleep with as many women as possible.
The England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB) charged other members for bringing the game into disrepute after his conviction.
Mr Clarke, who did not take part in the assault, was selected to play for England until the ECB withdrew him from the Lions’ squad for his involvement in the messaging.
Hepburn made vile jokes about ‘dragging birds back’ and ‘raping them’ and nicknamed himself ‘Battery’ because ‘my shagging just goes on for hours and hours’.
David Emmanuel QC, for Hepburn, told the Court of Appeal today the messages were irrelevant to whether Hepburn would force sex on a woman against her will.
The lawyer said the chat log had been used to ‘generate disgust’ and should not have been put before the jury in his trial.
Australian Hepburn and his girlfriend Lucy Street attend his sentencing at Hereford Crown Court on April 30 last year. He was sentenced to five years in jail but is set to appeal his sentence at the Court of Appeal
Mr Emmanuel said: ‘There are two grounds of appeal. The first relates to the admissibility of the WhatsApp messages and the second is the verdict of the jury was inconsistent.
‘The jury conviction count 2 oral rape, and acquitted count 1, vaginal rape.
‘There are three aspects to my submissions of the messages. The first is of their admissibility including a failure by the learned judge I submit to consider the prejudicial effect.
‘Secondly the cross-examination of the appellant on the messages it is submitted was not appropriate and thirdly the direction to the jury in relation to the verdicts was inadequate.
‘There were three [issues]; firstly did the complainant consent to sex with the appellant? Secondly, if not did the appellant genuinely believe she was consenting to sex with him and thirdly if he did was that reasonable?
‘My opening submission is that none of the messages were capable of assisting the jury in relation to those issues.
‘It’s arguable its indication that at first blush there was an issue of relevance in those messages.
‘In the Crown’s application it was said Alex Hepburn treated women as scores in a game with no regard for them at all.
[But] all that was said by the Crown in seeking to submit the messages was that they were background and part and parcel of the events.
‘All those messages did was show he was promiscuous, that he would have casual sex with anyone and that he used awful language in his discussions about it, not that he had ignored consent.’
Hepburn and his girlfriend Ms Street. Hepburn raped a 23-year-old university student while she was asleep in his Worcester flat in England’s West Midlands on April 1, 2017
Mr Emmanuel read excerpts of some of the texts argued to be irrelevant, saying: ”The winner gets a gram with caption top shaggers,” reference to women you haven’t had sex with before as a ”freshie”, the fact that it was going to be ”shagging week,” ”Clarkie only won last year cos the Hepburn let you.
”It’s always been me dragging the birds back and you raping them£”.
‘Mr Hepburn chose his nickname to be battery, like a phone battery, because ”my shagging just goes on for hours and hours, #breakthep*ss”.
”’Won’t be hard to smash freshies, do it for fun. Suck my large fores**n. I’m on my way back from Taunton so I can hit the p*ss. Don’t go after birds too early”.’
‘A reference to sexual intercourse being ”chopping”.’
Hepburn playing for Worcestershire County Cricket Club in August 2017. After his two rape charges became public in November 2017, he was suspended by the club on full pay. His contract was not renewed when it expired at the end of September, 2018
Mr Emmanuel said the messages were treated by the judge during trial as a ‘job lot’ which would provoke disgust in the jury.
He said: ‘Some jurors just took against him for having these views and using this language.
‘The fact that all these messages pervaded the extracts of the game is evidence of that error of treating all the messages as one lump of messages. They would generate disgust in any reasonable member of the public.
‘In his ruling [the judge] used the following words to describe them: ”Sordid, repulsive most reasonable people would think bluntly sexist, messages that lend little dignity to either of them”.
”’Childish, prurient bravado being expressed in a moment, or being put in a different way the sexism that pervaded their discussions”.’
Hepburn and girlfriend Ms Street relaxing in a pool. Friends said Ms Street, who started her relationship with Hepburn at the start of 2018, vowed to stick by him – but it is not known if they are still together
Mr Emmanuel argued Hepburn’s own use of the word ‘rape’ should not have been put before the jury because it was used in jest.
The lawyer said: ‘The word rape, I submit, was particularly harmful in the context of this case. It was never suggested that anyone had ever been raped.
‘Mr Hepburn says it was always me dragging them back and you Clarkie raping them. No one’s ever suggested Mr Clarke has committed rape.
‘It was a terrible word to use but it was used in jest, trying to wind him up.’
Judge Tim Tindal, sentencing the rapist at Hereford Crown Court last year, said: ‘You thought you were God’s gift to women. You did see her at that moment as a piece of meat, not a woman entitled to respect.
‘Sex is never something a man does to a woman, arrogantly assuming consent – in a relationship, let alone as you did.’
Hepburn appeared via video-link from custody and was supported by his father dialling in by phone-link.
The victim is not attending the appeal hearing, which continues.
The 23-year-old woman said she was ‘humiliated’ to learn he had taken part of a sordid game of sexual conquests.
The stress of the rape by the former Worcestershire cricketer has left his student victim with facial paralysis and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
Last year, she told the BBC’s Victoria Derbyshire how Hepburn ‘saw a chance’ and attacked her in April 2017 after finding her asleep on a mattress.
She found Mr Clarke after the attack and told him ‘again and again and again ‘your friend has had sex with me’, before seeing Hepburn and running outside.
She said: ‘Once I’d grabbed my clothes, I ran out to the street and stopped a passer-by. I told her everything that happened and she rang the police.’
The woman told how police officers rang her mother, although she remembered thinking at the time that she did not want people to know about the attack.
The woman added that it had been ‘so humiliating’ to later find out at Hepburn’s trial at Worcester Crown Court that she was part of a ‘game’ without knowing.
The rape victim of cricketer Hepburn told the BBC’s Victoria Derbyshire (right) how Hepburn ‘saw a chance’ and attacked her in April 2017 after finding her asleep on a bed
The woman was left devastated by the attack and the trauma of having to give evidence
The stress has led her to develop Bell’s palsy, a partial facial paralysis, and added of her attacker: ‘He will have no idea the effect it has had on me.’
Ms Derbyshire said the interview, which was the victim’s first on TV or radio, was ‘the most searing account I’ve ever heard of the impact rape has on an individual’.
Hepburn, who made his debut for Worcestershire in 2015, was born and educated in Western Australia, but is also a British passport holder.
After he was charged with two counts of rape in 2017, he was suspended by Worcestershire County Cricket Club on full pay.
His contact was not renewed when it expired at the end of September, 2018.
He attended his court hearings with his girlfriend Lucy Street, who is a Nottingham Trent university student.
Friends said Ms Street, who started her relationship with Hepburn at the start of 2018, vowed to stick by him – but it is not known if they are still together.
He was sentenced to five years in prison on April 30, 2019 and has been jailed in HM Prison Littlehey ever since.
Hepburn will be on the sex offenders register for life.
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