Court orders York woman to pay abuser £35,000 and let him live in her house

  • Kirsty Easthope speaks to ITV News reporter Jon Hill

A sexual abuse victim says it is "atrocious" that a court has ordered her to pay her attacker £35,000 in damages and let him live in the house she owns.

Kirsty Easthope was abused by her mother's partner, serial sex offender Arthur Hepple. Her own daughter was also abused.

But Mrs Easthope, who has waived her right to anonymity, could now face a legal bill of £100,000 after losing a battle over her mother's will.

The will, drawn up before the abuse started and before her mother, Irma Barnett, was diagnosed with dementia, stipulated that Hepple could live in the house in York where the abuse happened.

A judge at Leeds County Court has now ruled in his favour.

Mrs Easthope, 52, inherited the property from her mother but no longer lives there. She said she had been left "absolutely devastated" by the ruling.

"I thought I'd be free of [Hepple] when he went to prison but he's back and a judge has ruled that and it's atrocious," she said.

"I'll never understand how he could have done what he did in the first place, but to continue to persecute me... I just want to be free of my perpetrator, but now the judge has put him back in my life again."

Kirsty Easthope's mother, Irma Barnett, never found out about the abuse. Credit: Family handout

Hepple, now 83, started to abuse Mrs Easthope in 2003, the same year her mother was diagnosed with dementia. He later attacked her daughter. Mrs Barnett died in 2013.

Hepple was given a suspended sentence for the attacks in 2014 and added to the sex offender register. He was jailed three years later for abusing another woman and her daughter.

After leaving prison in 2018 he insisted on being allowed to live in the bungalow he had shared with Mrs Barnett and her daughter.

The court found in his favour, and ordered Mrs Easthope to pay Hepple £35,000 to cover the losses he had incurred while having to live elsewhere along with legal costs, which could bring her total bill to £100,000.

Mrs Easthope said: "The court thing was just harrowing. I can't put into words how awful it was, I was completely out of my depth. It just broke me."

Arthur Hepple was jailed for abusing two other victims.

In a statement, Hepple's lawyers said Mrs Easthope could face further legal action if she refuses to comply with the order.

They said: "Mr Hepple has an unconditional lifetime right to occupy the property under the terms of his late partner’s will.

"Mrs Easthope unlawfully excluded him and refused to allow him back into occupation. 

"Her actions left Mr Hepple with no alternative but to issue a civil claim against her requiring her, amongst other things, to allow him back into the property. 

"To date, she is still to allow Mr Hepple back into the property and to pay the damages. It is possible that the matter may have to go back to Leeds High Court for enforcement and a decision on costs, which will be substantial."

What did the court rule?

In a written ruling, the judge at Leeds County Court said that Mrs Easthope was "bound" by the will left by her mother, Irma Barnett.

The judge said the will "provides the claimant, Mr Peter Arthur Hepple, with a life interest in [the address], entitling him to live there for the remainder of his life without condition and entitling him to the use of the furnishings that were present at the time of her death."

The order stipulated that Mrs Easthope must cover the "claimant's losses" of £35,248.75 and pay him £22.20 a day until he is allowed back into the property.

A friend of Mrs Easthope has set up a page on the Go Fund Me website to help her meet the costs. It has already raised more than £6,000.

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