The trial of Ben Stokes, Ryan Ali and Ryan Hale – all three charged with affray which they denied – began with jurors being told the England allrounder acted “well beyond self-defence or the defence of others” when knocking two men unconscious outside Mbargo nightclub in Bristol in the early hours of September 25 last year.
It is alleged that Stokes offered £300 to the bouncer outside Mbargo, Andrew Cunningham, to try and regain entry after the 2pm closing time. When that offer was declined, Stokes is alleged to have become abusive to the doorman and then mimicked and mocked a young gay couple, Kai Barry and William O’Connor, who were leaving the club. He is alleged to have flicked a cigarette butt at the head of one of the young men.
CCTV footage from outside Mbargo nightclub is shown to the jury. Andrew Cunningham, the bouncer, alleges that Stokes abused him and the gay couple.
Max Wilson, a student in the Clifton Triangle area of the city when the incident occurred, who filmed the incident from his room, described the fight involving the three defendants plus Stokes’ England team-mate Alex Hales, who was not on trial, as being like “football hooligans”.
Audio from the footage suggests Hales tried to pull Stokes away from the fray on several occasions – he is repeatedly heard shouting “Stop, Stokes! No! Enough!” – with both Wilson and other witnesses agreeing he was “trying to stop him [Stokes]”.
PC Daniel Adams, the officer in the case, says that the video shows Hales kicking Ryan Ali in the head as he lay on the pavement.
Under cross-examination, PC Adams agreed that both Ali and Hale had bottles at the time of the original fracas and accepted it appeared that Ali had used his “to aim a blow at Mr Barry”.
Ben Stokes was described as the “main aggressor” in the fight when he is identified by Mark Spure, an off-duty member of the police force.
The court also hears details of the injuries sustained by Ryan Ali and Ryan Hale.
Stokes’ statement to the police, which he gave on November 20, is read out to the court in which he says he felt “under threat of immediate attack” and others involved in the fight had “demonstrated a willingness to use weapons in attacking people”. He claims he was protecting Kai Barry and William O’Connor from homophobic abuse.
“What Ryan Ali and Ryan Hale were saying was far from harmless banter, it was nasty homophobic abuse,” Stokes said in his statement.
“I decided to intervene and asked Ryan Ali and Ryan Hale to stop abusing Kai and William. I said something like ‘leave it out – you shouldn’t be taking the piss because they’re gay.’
“In response,one of the guys said ‘Shut the f*** up and f**** off or I’ll bottle you’. At the time he was holding a bottle in his right hand.
The CCTV footage from outside Mbargo nightclub is released, as are the mobile-phone recordings of the fight itself.
The judge instructs the jury to find Ryan Hale not guilty of affray due to lack of evidence. Ben Stokes enters the dock for the first time.
Earlier, the court is read Hale’s statement, which he gave to police in September. In it, he claims that Stokes “could have killed me. The way he was acting in that video, he could have beat the living hell out of me. That’s quite shocking to think I’ve been put in that situation.”
In the witness stand, Stokes tells the jury he “stepped in” after hearing homophobic abuse towards William O’Connor and Kai Barry. He adds he saw Ali brandish a bottle towards the two men and Alex Hales so “took the decision” to get involved to “keep myself and others around me safe”.
Police bodycam footage is played to the jury of the moment of Stokes’ arrest. It shows him asking for the handcuffs to be loosened due to previous injuries to his hand and also hears him tell Hales to leave the area. “I was saying ‘It’s on me’. I was saying ‘Go, get away from here. Don’t get involved’.” The footage also shows Hales telling police he only arrived on the scene after the fight had taken place.
Stokes continues to be cross-examined. He is accused of lying to the jury, and also of exaggerating the extent of an argument he witnessed “in an attempt to justify your own violent behaviour”.
A written statement from England team-mate Jake Ball is read to the court in which he says Stokes was in a “good mood” during the night in question and that he wasn’t drunk.
The final session of the week sees Ryan Ali, Stokes’ co-defendant, take the stand. Under cross-examination Ali accepts that footage shows he struck another man with a bottle before being punched by Stokes. Ali says he only did it to defend himself.
The trial continues.