Ben Stokes found not guilty of affray

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Ben Stokes has been found not guilty of affray.

Stokes, who was arrested following an incident in Bristol in the early hours of September 25, had been on trial at Bristol Crown Court since August 6.

His co-defendant, Ryan Ali, was also found not guilty after more than two-and-a-half hours of deliberation by a jury of six men and six women.

At the moment that the verdict was delivered, Stokes’ wife Clare broke down in tears, then Neil Fairbrother, his agent, did likewise. Stokes himself, who had been calm in the dock, allowed himself to shut his eyes for a moment but didn’t break into a smile. He then offered his hand to Ali, who shook it.

Reacting to the verdict, an Avon and Somerset Police spokesman said: “We carried out a thorough independent investigation into the events of 25 September before passing a comprehensive file of evidence to the Crown Prosecution Service which subsequently made the decision to charge.

“Having reviewed the evidence, the jury has concluded the actions of the defendants did not amount to affray and we respect this decision.”

The end of the court proceedings means that Stokes could, in theory, be cleared to play in the third Test against India starting in Nottingham on Saturday.

The ECB will shortly convene a Cricket Discipline Commission, which will consider whether Stokes or Alex Hales, who was also present during the incident, should face any sanction. It has not gone unnoticed by the ECB that both men were out late at night – the incident occurred after 2.30am – with two games left to play in the series and that Stokes was alleged to have been “really very drunk” by the prosecution.

Any possible sanction will take into account that Stokes has already missed the Ashes tour as a result of the episode. Hales also missed two ODIs at the end of the 2017 English domestic season.

During the trial the jury was shown body-worn video footage from the arresting police officer that appeared to show Hales denying he had been present at the incident, while both the prosecution and defence barristers alleged video footage showed him kicking Ali in the head. Stokes’ barrister, Gordon Cole QC, suggested that kick could have resulted in Ali’s broken eye-socket.

During the trial, Stokes was alleged to have lied to the jury, mimicked and bullied two men on account of their homosexuality and acted like a football hooligan. He did not deny punching two men (Ali and Ryan Hale, who was acquitted earlier in proceedings due to a lack of evidence), but insisted he did so as he feared for his safety and the safety of others.

Ali was alleged to have used an upturned bottle in the early moments of the fracas, while CCTV footage showed Hale running towards the incident with an iron bar ripped from a traffic sign. (ESPNCricinfo)

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