A cricketer who thought he was “God’s gift to women” when he raped a woman during a WhatsApp ‘sexual conquests’ game has failed in a bid to overturn his conviction.
Alex Hepburn, 24, was jailed for five years last April for attacking the young woman in his Worcester flat, as he competed with a teammate to sleep with as many people as possible.
Hepburn, an Australian-born Worcestershire all-rounder, was said to be “fired-up” by the challenge and had posted the rules to the “stat chat” game with teammate Joe Clarke on WhatsApp.
Sentencing him last year, Judge Jim Tindal told Hepburn: “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.”
The cricketer claimed his WhatsApp messages should never been shown to the jury in his trial, arguing his conviction for rape should be overturned.
But Lord Burnett of Maldon, the Lord Chief Justice, sitting with Mr Justice Sweeney and Mr Justice Murray, this morning dismissed the appeal, saying the messages were key to explain the case to the jury, as well as on the issue of “belief in consent”
“The judge had made plain his revulsion at what the messages showed about the attitude of these men to women generally, simply sexual playthings with no concern for their feelings”, said Lord Burnett, finding that jurors had been properly told how to assess the messages.
“The judge made clear that the appellant was not being prosecuted for sexism but rape and explained the relevance of the messages.”
Hepburn was convicted at his trial of one count of rape and acquitted of a second rape charge.
The court heard the cricketers were on the first night of the game, on April 1, 2017, when Mr Clarke had consensual sex with the victim. Later in the night, as the woman slept, Hepburn carried out the rape.
She initially thought Hepburn was Mr Clarke but recoiled in horror when she realised what was happening.
A slew of misogynistic messages between the cricketers were shown to the jury, including one from Hepburn which read: “It’s always been me dragging the birds back and you raping them”.
Hepburn’s barrister David Emanuel QC argued the reference to rape was “in jest” and the WhatsApp messages suggested the cricketer was sexually promiscuous rather than willing to have sex with a woman without consent. However the appeal judges today rejected the claim.
Sentencing Hepburn last year, Judge Jim Tindal called it a “pathetic sexist game to collect as many sexual encounters as possible”, adding: “You probably thought it was laddish behaviour at the time. In truth it was foul sexism.”
The court this morning dismissed Hepburn’s appeal on the grounds that the messages should not have been shown to the jury, and also on a second challenge that the verdicts had been inconsistent with the evidence.