Cricketer Ben Stokes 'mocked gay men before nightclub fight'

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Ben Stokes leaving courtImage source, PA
Image caption,
Ben Stokes leaves Bristol Crown Court after the first day of the trial

England cricketer Ben Stokes mocked two gay men and flicked a cigarette butt at one of them before brawling with two other men, a court has heard.

The Durham all-rounder, who will miss the second Test against India at Lord's, denies affray.

Bristol Crown Court heard Ryan Ali, 28, and Ryan Hale, 27, were knocked unconscious by Mr Stokes in Bristol on 25 September 2017.

They also deny affray and are on trial alongside Mr Stokes.

The fight outside a nightclub was "a sustained episode of significant violence" in which Mr Stokes "lost control", jurors were told.

Broken eye socket

Nicholas Corsellis, prosecuting, said Mr Stokes, 27, had "knocked Mr Hale unconscious and then - after time to pause for thought, to calm - he did exactly the same to Mr Ali".

The prosecutor described Mr Stokes's actions as "well beyond acting in self-defence or defence of another".

The cricketer has maintained that "at all times he acted in self-defence of himself or others" and believed the force he used was "reasonable and entirely justified".

An altercation took place in the Clifton Triangle area of the city just after 02:00 BST after the three defendants had left a nightclub, Mr Corsellis said.

The court heard Mr Ali had sustained "significant injuries", including a broken eye socket.

Image source, Getty Images
Image caption,
Ryan Ali (left) and Ryan Hale have both pleaded not guilty to affray

Mr Corsellis told the jury 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.

The defendants had been drinking in Mbargo nightclub, with the fight taking place after it closed, jurors heard.

Mr Stokes and his team-mate Alex Hales had left the nightclub at 00:46 but returned at 02:08.

Bouncer Andrew Cunningham explained to the pair the club was closed and they would not be allowed in.

However, an "obviously upset" Mr Stokes became "aggressive" and insulted Mr Cunningham about his appearance, jurors heard.

Mr Cunningham said Mr Stokes's attention then turned to two "openly gay" men - Kai Barry and William O'Connor - outside the venue.

He claimed the cricketer had mimicked their voices and mannerisms in what he described as "a derogatory way".

Image caption,
The fight took place after Mr Stokes was turned away from Mbargo nightclub, the court heard

Mr Corsellis said footage showed Mr Stokes "copying hand gestures made by the men", while the bouncer claimed the cricketer had flicked a cigarette butt at Mr O'Connor.

"Mr Stokes's behaviour outside the nightclub sets an important tone for what happened that night," the prosecutor said.

"He was clearly frustrated and annoyed. He took to acting in a provocative and offensive way."

Only the defendants know precisely how the fight started, Mr Corsellis told the court, which was shown further footage of the incident.

'That's enough'

A video showed Mr Ali hitting Mr Barry on the shoulder with a bottle.

Mr Stokes threw a punch at Mr Ali, and the pair fell to the ground, the jury were told.

Then Mr Hale tried to drag Mr Stokes off Mr Ali, the court heard. Mr Hale told police he had been "smashed to the floor".

Mr Corsellis alleged Mr Stokes did not act in self-defence but had pursued the other men in "retaliation".

"Everybody except him wants it to stop," he told the jury.

He said that in the footage Mr Stokes' England team-mate Mr Hales could be heard to say: "Stokes, Stokes, that's enough."

Image source, Julia Quenzler
Image caption,
Ben Stokes, Ryan Hale and Ryan Ali all deny affray

Mr Ali said "move away, move away" and Mr Hale said "stop, stop", Mr Corsellis told the court.

An eyewitness, Laura Sweeney, said she saw Mr Hale pull a metal leg from a road sign and run towards the other men.

After he was arrested Mr Stokes was interviewed by police, and in a prepared statement said he saw two men speaking to two gay men in a "harsh and abusive" way.

The statement said he "took exception to this and said 'leave it out'".

Chip on shoulder

Mr Hale then "grabbed and pulled" him, and Mr Stokes "felt the need to defend himself as he thought he was going to be attacked" and hit him "more than once", jurors were told.

In a second statement Mr Stokes denied being "aggressive" towards Mr Cunningham, accusing him of being "rude" and suggested he had a "chip on his shoulder".

"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," the court heard.

Mr Stokes, of Castle Eden, Durham, was arrested in the early hours along with Mr Ali, of Bristol, and Mr Hale, of Westbury-on-Trym, Bristol.

The fight took place several hours after England had played a one-day international against West Indies at the city's County Ground.

The trial continues.

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