An arrogant cricketer who treated a “dozing” woman whom he raped in his team-mate’s bedroom like a “piece of meat” has been jailed for five years.
Alex Hepburn, 23, was convicted after an attack he carried out during the first night of a sexual conquest “game” he helped to set up on a WhatsApp group.
Hepburn, who the sentencing judge concluded thought he was “God’s gift to women”, had cooked up the “pathetic, sexist game” with a team-mate.
Judge Jim Tindal told Hepburn, stood in the dock wearing a suit while members of his family looked on, he had seen his victim “at that moment, as a piece of meat, not a woman entitled to respect”.
The Australian-born former Worcestershire all-rounder was said by the prosecution to have been “fired up” by the contest to sleep with the most women, before carrying out the rape at his flat in Portland Street, Worcester, on 1 April, 2017.
Jailing Hepburn at Hereford Crown Court on Tuesday, Judge Tindal told the “immature” cricketer he and a former team-mate Joe Clarke had agreed 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.
“It demeaned women and trivialised rape – a word you personally threw around lightly.
“Only now do you realise how serious rape is.”
That night, Mr Clarke had “done nothing wrong”, having consensual sex with the woman, leaving her sleeping while he – feeling unwell – passed out in the nearby bathroom.
It was when Hepburn got home, “alone, drunk and frustrated” that he “saw a chance” and attacked the woman, the judge said.
The judge said: “That night, Joe Clarke did nothing wrong – nor did she.”
He added: “I have no doubt at that stage you planned to go to bed on the mattress Joe Clarke’s.
“When you realised a sleeping woman was there, you saw a chance, climbed onto the mattress, rousing her.
“The first thing she remembered was waking, with a penis in her mouth.”
Judge Tindal told Hepburn he had “arrogantly” believed his victim would consent.
Addressing the cricketer, he 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 something people do together, with that particular person at that particular time.
“Sex is never something a man does to a woman, arrogantly assuming consent – in a relationship, let alone as you did.
“As she said, in evidence, ‘that is rape’ – that is what you did.
“In that moment you scarred both your lives forever.”
A jury had found Hepburn guilty of oral rape at a re-trial earlier this month, but cleared him of a further count of rape relating to the same victim.
The four-day trial at Worcester Crown Court heard that the woman wrongly thought she was having sex with Hepburn’s then county team-mate Joe Clarke after meeting him at a nightclub.
She told jurors she had consensual sex with England Lions batsman Mr Clarke, who left his bedroom in the early hours to be sick in a bathroom, where he passed out.
Hepburn told jurors he had drunk the equivalent of 20 bottles of beer before he found the woman alone on a mattress at the flat he shared with Mr Clarke.
Claiming he reasonably believed the woman had consented, Hepburn told jurors she had rolled over in bed, kissed him, and instigated “normal” consensual sex.
The judge praised the victim’s impact statement, read to court by the prosecution’s barrister, describing it as “one of most articulate and powerful descriptions of rape I have ever read”.
In it, the woman Hepburn attacked described her ordeal as “evil” and a “heinous crime”.
Her words, read by Miranda Moore QC, prosecuting, described how she suffered recurring nightmares in the form of “a repeat of the rape” nearly every night of the week, adding the pressures of coping with her ordeal had eventually ended her relationship with her then-boyfriend.
“I take off my hat to anyone who can hold down a healthy happy relationship, after being raped,” she added.
She said: “I am flooded with guilt that I can’t ever seem to escape.
“Now all the people I care and love suffer as well.”
Her once “happy-go-lucky” character had now also disappeared, she said, adding: “I mourn who I used to be.”
She said: “I can’t remember the last time I went anywhere without creating mental escape plans, just in case.”
Describing the impact on her physical and emotional health, she now suffered panic attacks, anxiety, and “violent anger outbursts”, and had struggled to hold down a steady job.
Continuing her statement, she added that she was diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder.
She said that having to give evidence to a courtroom “full of strangers” on two occasions, while family members including her father “had to sit and listen to every detail”, had been “humiliating”.
Hepburn’s barrister, Michelle Heeley QC, said her client had expressed “true remorse”, had never set out to hurt anyone, and had received “death threats” following his conviction.
She added her client had been “very young and immature, at the time”, and “living a life – he accepts a privileged life – and to an extent, he abused that privilege”.
Ms Heeley said: “He has lost everything: his career, his good character and ultimately his liberty and how he comes back from that is a very difficult question.”
After sentencing, Detective Chief Inspector Ian Wall, of West Mercia Police, said: “We welcome the sentence today and I hope it will offer some comfort to the victim, who has shown great courage and strength in coming forward in reporting this to us, throughout the investigation and in giving evidence in court.”