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Cricketer Ben Stokes mocked gay men before losing control, court told

England cricketer Ben Stokes mocked a gay man and threw a cigarette butt at his head before knocking two men unconscious in an fight outside a nightclub in Bristol, a jury heard.

The 27-year-old all-rounder and two other men, Ryan Ali, 28, and Ryan Hale, 27, all deny the charge.

Stokes, Ali and Hale are jointly charged over a fracas in the Clifton Triangle area of Bristol on September 25 last year – several hours after England had played a one-day international against the West Indies in the city.

Stokes was described as attacking the two men outside a nightclub "with revenge, retaliation or punishment in mind. Well beyond acting in self defence or defence of another," by Nicholas Corsellis prosecuting.

  • Ben Stokes arrives at court

The charge he faces states that their “conduct was such as would cause a person of reasonable firmness present at the scene to fear for his personal safety”, contrary to section 3(1) and (7) of the Public Order Act 1986.

Mr Corsellis told the court that all the defendants had been drinking that night and had been at the Mbargo nightclub, with the alleged incident taking place after the club closed after 2am.

"How precisely it started is only known by the defendants. The violence that erupted could actually have stopped very quickly and it would have remained a relatively minor incident," Mr Corsellis said.

"But during the incident Mr Stokes lost his control and started to attack with revenge, retaliation or punishment in mind. Well beyond acting in self defence or defence of another.

"He knocked Mr Hale unconscious and then - after time to pause for thought, to calm - he did exactly the same to Mr Ali.

"Mr Ali received significant injuries included a fractured eye socket and required hospital treatment."

Ryan Ali arrives at court. Credit: PA

Mr Corsellis told the jury at Bristol Crown Court: "This was not a trivial moment of unpleasantness. It was a sustained episode of significant violence that left onlookers shocked at what was taking place.

"A bottle was used at the beginning by Mr Ali and a broken street sign brought into the fray towards the end by Mr Hale.

"It is with regret that these defendants are before you, for they are all young men of promise. The defendant, Ben Stokes, is a professional cricket player who has reached the top of his profession and represented his country.

"Equally, Mr Ali has worked for the emergency services and Mr Hale has served his country in the armed forces."

Ryan Hale arrives at court. Credit: PA

Mr Corsellis told the court that all the defendants had been drinking that night and had been at the Mbargo nightclub, with the alleged incident taking place after the club closed after 2am.

"How precisely it started is only known by the defendants. The violence that erupted could actually have stopped very quickly and it would have remained a relatively minor incident," Mr Corsellis said.

"But during the incident Mr Stokes lost his control and started to attack with revenge, retaliation or punishment in mind. Well beyond acting in self defence or defence of another.

"He knocked Mr Hale unconscious and then - after time to pause for thought, to calm - he did exactly the same to Mr Ali.

"Mr Ali received significant injuries included a fractured eye socket and required hospital treatment."

Stokes and his teammates, including batsman Alex Hales, arrived by taxi at Mbargo at around 11.30pm.

Stokes and Mr Hales left the club at 0.46am but both returned to Mbargo at 2.08am.

"Two door supervisors were on duty that evening," Mr Corsellis said.

"One of them, Andrew Cunningham, will be able to assist you with the demeanour of Mr Stokes at that time.

"He saw Mr Stokes and Mr Hales coming towards the doors to the club from a taxi. He did not know their names or who they were."

Mr Cunningham told the pair that the club was now closed and they would not be allowed in.

"Mr Stokes then asked 'would £60 get us in?' The CCTV footage shows Mr Stokes getting bank notes out and offering them towards the door supervisors. This offer was refused," the prosecutor said.

"Mr Cunningham recalls Mr Stokes then asking Mr Hales how much money he had and then offered £300 to get in. Again, Mr Cunningham refused.

"At this point he described Mr Stokes starting to insult him, saying something like 'look at the state of your teeth' - a reference to Mr Cunningham's gold front teeth. 'They make you look like a c***'.

"Mr Stokes then made comments about Mr Cunningham's tattoos, telling him he thought they were shit.

"Mr Cunningham described Mr Stokes's tone as being 'aggressive' and 'obviously upset' that he had not been allowed into the nightclub.

"Mr Stokes's demeanour around 2.10am was frustrated and looking to be - and being - provocative towards a doorman, telling him what he thought of him. Then things emerged in relation to others."

The court heard that two other men in Mbargo that night were Kai Barry and William O'Connor.

"Mr Cunningham knew them as regular attenders at the club and they were flamboyant, extrovert and openly gay men," Mr Corsellis said.

Stokes and Mr Hales spoke to the two men outside the nightclub, as footage from inside Mbargo suggests they had previously had contact.

"Mr Cunningham observed Mr Stokes's behaviour towards them. He noted that he was mimicking their voices and mannerisms in what he described as 'a derogatory way' thereby making fun of their camp behaviour," Mr Corsellis said.

"The CCTV footage, which does not have audio, suggests that sort of behaviour with Mr Stokes copying hand gestures made by the men."

The court heard that Stokes, who is a smoker, flicked the end of a cigarette towards Mr O'Connor's head.

"Mr Cunningham was prompted to say to Mr Stokes 'If you want to start on anyone, start on me'," Mr Corsellis said.

"Alex Hales asked why Mr Cunningham had become annoyed and when told by him that Stokes had flicked a cigarette at one of the men, he said 'Stokesy... don't do that'."

Ali and Hale left Mbargo at 2.23am and engaged in conversation with Mr Barry and Mr O'Connor, walking up the road with them.

Mr Corsellis said the CCTV, which does not have sound, appears to show Mr Barry touching Ali to the groin, then trying to take his arm.

Ali is shown pushing Mr Barry away but not with "significant force", Mr Corsellis said.

"Is this banter between them or is there something more sinister going on?," he asked the jury.

Stokes, right, during the lunch break. Credit: PA

The jury was shown footage of the alleged incident which begins with Mr Ali raising a bottle and motioning as if to hit Hales and then strike out at Mr Barry making glancing contact, to the back of the left shoulder.

"Mr Stokes decides to get involved and moves towards Mr Ali, with his right arm out and then throws a punch towards Mr Ali," Mr Corsellis said.

"Mr Stokes and Mr Ali fall to the ground, with Mr Stokes on top of Mr Ali. Mr Hales can be seen using his foot on Mr Ali's back.

"We know Mr Ali had a bottle and he was using it. No one else was armed. Mr Stokes became involved and punched out and grappled with Mr Ali on the ground.

"If this incident had been restricted to that it is unlikely we would be here today. Mr Stokes may have been acting in defence of another by striking or taking hold of Mr Ali at this stage.

"You may use violence in public if you honestly think it is necessary to use violence to defend yourself or another."

The jury watched further CCTV clips of the incident unfolding between the group of men.

Mr Corsellis said Stokes was not acting in self-defence but was pursuing the other men in "retaliation".

"Everybody except him wants it to stop," he told the jury. "Mr Ali 'Move away, move away'. Mr Hale 'Stop, stop'. Alex Hales 'Stokes, Stokes, that's enough'.

"Alex Hales tries to get hold of Mr Stokes on two occasions to try to prevent his escalation into the violence that we see.

"Everybody, except him (Stokes), wants it to stop. It is advanced to you as retribution and retaliation and not self-defence."

Further CCTV shows Hale picking himself up from the floor but collapsing for a second time in a shop front.

Off-duty special constable Mark Spure witnessed the alleged assault on Ali and attempted to intervene between two of those involved, the court heard.

"Whilst he was trying to stop the fighting, one man with ginger hair, Mr Stokes, struck another, Mr Ali, with a clenched fist, causing him to fall to the floor," Mr Corsellis said.

"As he tended to Mr Ali, he sensed the fighting continued. Mr Spure could see that Mr Ali was completely unable to move and had sustained facial injuries with his left eye very swollen, bleeding, with the blood pouring down his face.

"As it happened a police car arrived and the occupants stopped the fight. Mr Spure immediately identified Mr Stokes as being the person wearing the green t-shirt who had punched the man to the ground."

Ali was taken to the Bristol Royal Infirmary by ambulance and diagnosed with a fracture to the left of his face, a swollen left eye and a laceration above his eyebrow. He also had a cracked lower left molar.

Hale made his own way to the same hospital and sustained a 1.5-inch superficial laceration and bruising to his forehead, consistent with blunt force trauma. He was discharged with head injury advice.

The court heard that Stokes was arrested at the scene. Footage from one of the arresting officers' body worn cameras captures Hale saying that he did not wish to press charges as Stokes "ain't done anything to me".

"The footage also captures Mr Hales stating that he was not present during the incident, contrary to the CCTV footage," Mr Corsellis said.

"When being told by the officers the reason for his arrest, Stokes said that he had acted in the way that he did 'because he was abusing my two friends for being gay'."

Stokes was interviewed on two occasions and made "no comment" answers to all questions but gave three prepared statements.

In the first statement, Stokes said he saw two men speaking to two gay men in a "harsh and abusive" way that was homophobic in nature.

"He took exception to this and said 'Leave it out' and 'You shouldn't be taking the piss because they're gay'," Mr Corsellis said.

"One of the men responded by saying 'Shut up or I'll bottle you' in an aggressive tone. The man, who was holding a bottle, starting coming towards him. The man got close and he grabbed hold of his arms as he thought the male was going to assault him. They scuffled and ended up on the floor. He, Mr Stokes, thought that he was 'getting the better of it'.

"The other male, Mr Hale, then came and grabbed and pulled him. He shouted and got up. He was worried where the first male was. He felt the need to defend himself as he thought he was going to be attacked.

"He 'grappled' with the second male and hit him 'more than once'. It stopped when the second male went to the floor. It happened quickly but he felt under threat of imminent attack.

"He denied mimicking or behaving in a derogatory manner towards Mr Barry and Mr O'Connor, saying that they had engaged in joking with each other and denied flicking a cigarette butt at anyone," Mr Corsellis said.

Stokes told officers that he and Mr Hales were walking to a casino when he overheard "nasty homophobic language" from Ali and Hale.

"He said he decided to intervene and said 'Leave it out, you shouldn't be taking the piss because they are gay'," Mr Corsellis said.

"The two gay men were sticking up for themselves but were obviously offended. He describes them as 'verbally combative' in return and 'not shying away'.

"One of the males advanced and replied 'Shut the f*** up or I'll bottle you'. Thinking he was about to be attacked he took hold of him and a scuffle commenced.

"He gave an account of what he said could be seen on the footage, maintaining that he acted because he was in fear for himself and others.

"He maintained that at all times he acted in self-defence of himself or others. He said that he believed that the force that he used was 'reasonable and entirely justified when the circumstances are viewed objectively'."

Ali told police he had been out with Hale to celebrate his friend's promotion at work. He said he remembered the two gay men in Mbargo's and that there was "banter" between them afterwards.

"He then saw a tall blond guy coming towards him 'very aggressively' and crossing the road towards him," Mr Corsellis said.

"There was then an 'altercation' between them. He had his palms open and was saying that he did not want any trouble. He thought that he calmed down the blond hair guy, then he saw his friend Ryan unconscious on his back.

"The male had gone towards Ryan 'aggressively while he was unconscious on the floor'. He tried to restrain Mr Stokes, trying to put him in a headlock. He does not remember anything else other than waking up in the gutter on his back.

"He denied making any homophobic comments to the men. He accepted carrying a bottle. He may have hidden it in his jacket when he left the club. He denied trying to attack anything with the bottle.

"He was saying 'Get back, move away' because he felt threatened. Ben Stokes came towards him aggressively. He was angry and charging towards him. He cannot recall hitting anyone with the bottle but from the video he can see that he hit someone's arm."