England allrounder Ben Stokes has said he “stepped in” to defend two gay men before the alleged brawl took place, the Bristol Crown Court heard on Thursday (August 9).
The allrounder has been accused as the main aggressor during the fracas that took place last year. The incident had taken place near the Mbargo nightclub in the Clifton Triangle area of Bristol shortly after 2am on September 25 last year – hours after England had played the West Indies in a one-day international in the city.
Stokes was soon arrested on suspicion of causing actual bodily harm following the incident which allegedly left one man in the hospital. He was immediately suspended by the England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB). He later lost his vice-captaincy of the Test team and also the place in the squad for the Ashes.
Stokes had returned to competitive cricket for Canterbury in the domestic one-day and T20 competitions in New Zealand. The allrounder made his international return during the ODI series in New Zealand.
The two men who were attacked by Stokes are Ryan Hale, 27, and Ryan Ali, 28.
As of now, Stokes and Ali are on trail for affray. Hale was also accused of affray but acquitted on Thursday.
In his defence, Stokes has told the court that he had stepped in when he heard Hale and Ali “shouting homophobic comments” at two gay men, Kai Barry and William O’Connor.
He told the jury:
“I stepped in and said ‘you shouldn’t be saying these things to these two men’.”
Stokes also allegedly mimicked the mannerisms of the two gay men in what was called a “derogatory way”. When asked by Gordon Cole QC whether he was being homophobic, Stokes replied:
“Definitely not. The only comments between myself and this gay couple was about what we was wearing that night.”
Stokes further said his actions came out in self-defence. He said when he defended the gay men, Ali had replied: “Shut the f— up or I’ll bottle you.”
Stokes said all of his conduct during the incident came out in self-defence.
“I took the decision for what I did very quickly. As soon as this episode started I knew not just myself but other people could be a target of these two men. As soon as I decided to get involved, everything I did was under self-defence. I did what I could to keep myself and those around me safe.”