Cricketer Alex Hepburn loses appeal to overturn rape conviction

30 June 2020, 14:13

Alex Hepburn has had an appeal to overturn his rape conviction dismissed
Alex Hepburn has had an appeal to overturn his rape conviction dismissed. Picture: PA

By Ewan Somerville

A professional cricketer who played a “game to collect as many sexual encounters as possible” has lost a bid to overturn his rape conviction.

Alex Hepburn, 24, was jailed for five years in April 2019 for the attack on a sleeping woman in Worcester two years earlier.

A jury had found Hepburn guilty of oral rape at a retrial last year, but cleared him of a further count of rape relating to the same victim.

At the trial, prosecutors said the Australian-born former Worcestershire all-rounder was “fired up” on the first night of a “game” to sleep with the most women, before raping the woman at his flat in Portland Street, Worcester.

Hepburn challenged his conviction at the Court of Appeal this month, with his barrister arguing that WhatsApp messages detailing the sexual conquest game should not have been used in his trial.

But in a judgment on Tuesday, three senior judges - including the Lord Chief Justice Lord Burnett - dismissed his appeal, saying: “The conviction is not unsafe.”

Hepburn, 24, was jailed for five years in April 2019 for the attack on a sleeping woman in Worcester two years earlier
Hepburn, 24, was jailed for five years in April 2019 for the attack on a sleeping woman in Worcester two years earlier. Picture: PA

Hepburn’s lawyers argued that messages presented to the jury did not show that he was willing to have sex with a woman without consent.

Hepburn’s barrister, David Emanuel QC, said: “The idea propagated by the Crown, that he was so desperate to win the game this year that he would ignore true consent if he had to, is just not supported by anything in the messages or by the fact of the game itself.”

Mr Emanuel told the judges: “I accept it would be different if there was talk of sex against will, or trickery to gain a point, or taking a chance, but there’s nothing like that in the messages.

“They are too far removed as to be able to be to do with the facts of the alleged offence.”

Miranda Moore QC, representing the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS), argued that it was right that these WhatsApp messages were heard at the trial.

She told the court that “this wasn’t a bit of boyish banter at a point in time” but a “deep-seated and long-running game between a number of professional sportsmen”.

prosecutors said the Australian-born former Worcestershire all-rounder was “fired up” on the first night of a “game” to sleep with the most women
prosecutors said the Australian-born former Worcestershire all-rounder was “fired up” on the first night of a “game” to sleep with the most women. Picture: PA

Jailing Hepburn at Hereford Crown Court on 30 April last year, Judge Jim Tindal told the cricketer he and a former teammate, Joe Clarke, had agreed to a “pathetic sexist game to collect as many sexual encounters as possible”, following a similar stunt the previous year.

In remarks about the WhatsApp chat group, the judge said: “You probably thought it was laddish behaviour at the time. In truth it was foul sexism.”

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