United Kingdom

Cricketer who joked about 'dragging the birds back' appeals five year sentence

A former professional cricketer who joked about “dragging the birds back” as part of a WhatsApp sexual conquest game has appealed a five year sentence by claiming the comments did not prove he would ignore consent.

Alex Hepburn, 24, who played for Worcestershire County Cricket Club, was last year found guilty of orally raping a 23-year-old student after she had consensual sex with Joe Clarke, his flatmate and ex-teammate, in their apartment in Worcester.

The Australian born all-rounder had helped set up a misogynistic sex challenge with other professional cricketers on a WhatsApp group chat where members competed to sleep with as many women as possible.

Appealing the rape conviction, Hepburn's defence counsel today claimed the chat log had been used to “generate disgust”and should not have been put before the jury.

Reading excerpts of some of the texts, David Emmanuel QC said: “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.” 

“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,” he argued.

However, the prosecution said the messages revealed “more than boyish banter”, as they “shone a light on why he would do what he did”.

Hepburn appeared via video-link from custody for the Court of Appeal hearing, supported by his father dialling in by phone-link.

He has previously said the woman, who cannot be identified for legal reasons, “actively engaged” in consensual sex.

Lord Chief Justice Lord Burnett and two other senior judges concluded the session by reserving a judgement for a later date.

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