Ben Stokes claims he ‘stepped in’ to defend two gay men

England cricketer Ben Stokes arrives at Bristol Crown Court where he is standing trial jointly accused of affray. Picture: PA.
England cricketer Ben Stokes arrives at Bristol Crown Court where he is standing trial jointly accused of affray. Picture: PA.

England cricketer Ben Stokes has told a jury he stepped in after hearing two revellers shout homophobic abuse at two gay men.

The all-rounder, 27, is accused of knocking out two friends, Ryan Hale, 27, and Ryan Ali, 28, during an alleged brawl in the Clifton Triangle area of Bristol on 25 September last year.

Stokes, who plays for Durham, is standing trial at Bristol Crown Court jointly accused of affray alongside Ali.

Hale was found not guilty of the same charge by the jury 
on the direction of the judge yesterday.

The cricketer denied claims he mocked two gay men, Kai Barry and William O’Connor, outside the Mbargo nightclub and flicked a cigarette butt at them. He insisted he had instead stepped in to protect Barry and O’Connor after hearing Hale and Ali, who had a glass beer bottle, shout homophobic abuse at them.

“Mr Hale and Mr Ali were shouting homophobic comments towards these two and in return Mr O’Connor and Mr Barry were going back to them,” Stokes told the jury.

“They weren’t obviously
going to let them say what they were saying. I stepped in. [I said] ‘You shouldn’t take the piss because they are gay’.

“I was told by Mr Ali along the lines of ‘Shut the f*** up or I will bottle you’. As soon as I see Mr Ali swing the bottle at someone and physically hit them with it, that’s when I took the decision that I needed to get involved.

“I took a swing at Mr Ali. He had run past one of my friends, who I have known for a long time, with the bottle, attempting to hit him and then actually struck someone with the bottle. I was trying to stop Mr Ali from doing damage to anyone with a glass bottle.”

Stokes, wearing a blue suit, white shirt and blue tie, swore on the Bible before starting his evidence-in-chief in the witness box of court room one. The court heard he was in Bristol at the time of the incident, having played a one-day international against the West Indies.

Under direction from his barrister, Gordon Cole QC, Stokes held up his hands and showed the jury injuries sustained from playing his sport.

He said that after the match, he returned to the hotel and drank two or three pints of lager at a meal with wife Clare and three other players and their partners.

After the meal, Stokes and other England players took taxis into Bristol city centre and went to the Mbargo nightclub in Clifton Triangle.

The cricketer said he consumed about five or six vodka and lemonades there before leaving with team-mates James Anderson, Jake Ball and Alex Hales.

Team-mates Liam Plunkett and Jonny Bairstow remained at Mbargo, where Stokes and Mr Hales returned later that evening. However, they were refused entry by door supervisor Andrew Cunningham as 
it was after 2am. Stokes said the cricketers offered Mr Cunningham around £60 or £70 to get them into the club, which was turned down.

“I said to him ‘Come on mate, I’ve got sh*t tattoos as well, let us back in’,” he told the court.

l Lord’s yesterday suffered 
its first washout in 17 years as rain prevented any play between England and India on day one of the second 
Specsavers Test.

It was hoped a forecast improvement would come in time to get under way after tea, but the rain continued – and umpires Marais Erasmus and Aleem Dar announced at 4:50pm that there would be no play.

It is the first time a whole Test match day has been lost to the weather at the Home of Cricket since May 2001, against 
Pakistan.

England lead the series 1-0.