Tom Kohler-Cadmore accepts he was “100% in the wrong” to be part of the sordid WhatsApp group that emerged during Alex Hepburn’s rape trial and is now trying to prevent young cricketers from doing the same.
The Yorkshire batsman, 25, was among the England Lions white-ball squad that flew to Australia on Wednesday, his first outing for the second string since he and Nottinghamshire’s Joe Clarke were removed from a tour to India last January.
It followed details of their involvement in a sexual conquest game on WhatsApp coming to light during Hepburn’s initial court case, with the former Worcestershire player later convicted on one count of oral rape after April’s retrial and sentenced to five years in prison.
Both Kohler-Cadmore and Clarke were cleared of any criminal wrongdoing but still reprimanded for bringing the game into disrepute. The England and Wales Cricket Board retrospectively banned them for four of the Lions games they missed, fined them £2,000 each and ordered them to attend an educational course.
With that punishment now served, Kohler-Cadmore has returned to the Lions set-up after another strong season at Headingley – the ECB insists Clarke’s continued absence is based solely on performance – and he appears keen to own his mistake.
Kohler-Cadmore said: “One hundred per cent I was in the wrong. We all had our part to play in the group and it was meant as a bit of a joke. I know it’s not a joke now but it was never meant to be malicious.
“They were my actions, I was part of it and I was the one that created the group. It was never meant to have any outcome like that, it was just us three being young, single lads. We were naive.”
Kohler-Cadmore knows his proximity to the Hepburn case is “not something I am ever going to get away from” but insists he is a reformed character these days, having feared his career was “crashing down” when Andy Flower, the former Lions head coach, initially stood him down from the India tour 12 months ago.
He said: “I 100% respect the ECB’s decision, I know I was in the wrong, and it was a stupid mistake. I thought it was quite a fair punishment for me, and the rehabilitation course I went on, I felt it’s given me more knowledge on the area.
“The learning from it was that it was about you as a whole. You can’t allow yourself to be acting in that way, you have got to conduct yourself a lot better.
“Since then my life has had a proper U-turn in how I conduct myself. I have actually taken myself out of every WhatsApp group I could possibly be in. I am more than happy to miss out on that because I don’t want the risk of being affiliated with something that I can’t control.
“I have done a talk with the Yorkshire academy guys, using my mistakes to try to stop someone else getting into a similar situation – be it social media or their own private WhatsApps, whatever. [I am] trying to make a positive out of what was a negative situation.”
The Professional Cricketers’ Association responded to the Hepburn case by rolling out a series of relevant courses to all 18 counties and the England men’s and women’s teams. Players have been taught about sexual consent and the law, as well as having attitudes challenged.
Kohler-Cadmore has also volunteered to speak at the PCA rookie camp at Edgbaston on 25 February, where around 50 newly signed professional cricketers will hear his cautionary tale as part of their induction into the sport.
He added: “If I could save [the PCA] having to support someone in that kind of situation, because I had spoken about it, it would be a good thing to come from a terrible situation.”