What is Sexual Assault?

 

A 23-years-old Australian-born cricketer, Alex Hepburn was playing for the English county of Worcestershire in 2017 when he was arrested and charged with two counts of sexual assault.

The prosecution’s case was that the alleged victim had consensual sexual intercourse with Joe Clarke, Hepburn’s teammate, at the Worcester apartment.

The prosecution said, that when the woman later woke up, she realised that she was not with Joe Clarke who she had consensual sex with earlier before falling asleep.

It was the prosecution case that she didn’t realise that the man wasn’t Joe Clarke until she woke up to Hepburn performing a sexual act on her, and upon hearing his Aussie accent.

It is reported that she said to police that she believed it was Clarke “being cheeky” and that she “went along with it” until she came to realise it wasn’t Clarke- it was Hepburn.

Hepburn gave evidence, and it is reported that he told the jury that she had her eyes open at the time while “engaging” in what was occurring.

The court was also told that he consumed about fifteen units of alcohol with others in nightclubs earlier that night of 31 March 2017.

 

The Sex Game

Evidence suggested that Hepburn was involved in a sexual conquest “game” where the participants of the WhatApp group chat shared details of women they have slept with. The messages suggested he had sex with 60 women during a previous “stat game”.

The Prosecutor, Miranda Moore QC said, “He saw that girl asleep in the bed and decided to take advantage. That is what this case is about, this defendant’s attitude to women.”

It is reported that the group chat maintained a score of all the women its participants had sex with as part of a ‘conquest game’.

One of the WhatsApp messages suggested to be from Hepburn said, “Got to understand that Hepperdawg is a horny c*%$ and without you keeping my head straight just goes and does rogue things.”

On another WhatsApp message thought to be sent by Hepburn, said, “it feels like there is a population of 150 birds in Worcester and we have pumped every single one of them.. get them blind and then back to ours”.

While Clarke wasn’t charged with anything, the court also listened to messages that Hepburn had sent referring to threesomes which involved Clarke.

The group joked about “dragging the birds back.. raping them”, while bragging about then being tested for sexually transmitted infections.

 

The Guilty Verdict

Despite pleading not guilty to the charges and claiming that the women had consented and was awake at the time of committing the sexual act, he was found guilty of one count of rape.

It took the jury nearly eleven hours to reach a unanimous guilty verdict on the 1 count of rape. This was after an earlier trial where the jury were unable to come to a verdict.

He is expected to receive a custodial sentence on 30 April this year at the Hereford Crown Court, when his matter is next listed.

 

Who is Alex Hepburn?

Hepburn was born in Perth, Australia. He relocated to England in two thousand and thirteen, in pursuit of a career in cricket at a professional level. While playing for Worcestershire’s 2nd team in county cricket, he completed the seasons in 2017 achieving the team’s highest run-scorer and wicket-taker.

Upon being charged, he was suspended by the club while still receiving full-pay.

What is Sexual Assault and its Penalties in NSW?

There is a maximum penalty of up to 14-years imprisonment for anyone guilty of sexual assault pursuant to section 61I Crimes Act 1900 (NSW).

This crime is considered by courts as so serious that it is considered a ‘standard non-parole period offence’.

A standard non-parole period is the minimum period of time that the law suggests a sexual assault offender spend behind bars before being eligible for release on parole only if the offence is categorised by the sentencing Judge as falling in the middle of the range of objective seriousness for the offence.

Sexual assault carries a 7-years standard non-parole period.

While sexual assault is a standard non-parole period offence, the law says that it is not a mandatory requirement to impose this standard non-parole period even if the offence falls in the middle of the range of objective seriousness.

The standard non-parole period is only to be used as a guide to the Judge in exercising his/her sentencing discretion at coming to an appropriate sentence.

Proceedings are initiated first in the Local Court before it gets transferred to the District Court whether a person pleads guilty or not guilty to a sexual assault charge in NSW. This is because sexual assault is considered ‘strictly indictable’.

What is the Burden of Prove in a Sexual Assault Trial?

An accused person facing a sexual assault charge during trial cannot be found guilty by the court unless the prosecution discharges its onus to prove each element of this crime beyond reasonable doubt.

To prove the accused committing the crime of sexual assault, this means that the prosecution must first prove:

  1. He/she has sexual intercourse with the complainant (alleged victim); and
  2. The complainant did not consent to this; and
  3. He/she was aware that the complainant did not consent to this.

Sexual intercourse includes oral stimulation or the introduction of a penis into the complainant’s mouth.

Proof that the alleged offender was aware that the complainant did not consent to the sexual intercourse can be established in any one of the following methods:

  1. The alleged offender knew the complainant didn’t consent. This usually requires an admission or where the court makes an inference based on the whole of the evidence given in court; or
  2. If the alleged offender argues the defence that he/she honestly, on reasonable grounds, believed that the complainant was consenting at the time- he/she will be considered to have known there was no consent if that believe wasn’t honestly held, or if that belief wasn’t reasonable to have held in the circumstances; or
  3. The alleged offender was reckless about whether the complainant was consenting. ‘Reckless’ can be either of the following:
    • The alleged offender did it without caring if the complainant was consenting; or
    • The alleged offender was aware of the possibility that there was no consent; or
    • The alleged offender failed to even turn his/her mind to whether there was consent

If the prosecution fails to prove each and every element of the crime of sexual assault in court, the alleged offender will be found not guilty and acquitted from the charge.

Click here for more information on defences for the charge of sexual assault in NSW.

 

It’s critical to obtain urgent advice and guidance from an experienced lawyer when facing a sexual assault charge.

We have sexual assault lawyers in Sydney city and 7 other locations across NSW. Our experienced lawyers appear in all courts. Call us 24/7 on (02) 8606 2218 for a free first consultation.

About Jimmy Singh

Mr. Jimmy Singh is the Principal Lawyer at Criminal Defence Lawyers Australia - Australia's Leading Criminal Defence Lawyers, Delivering Exceptional Results in all Australian Courts.

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