Stokes mocked gay couple before brawl

 Ben Stokes (Gallo)
Ben Stokes (Gallo)

Bristol - England cricketer Ben Stokes mocked a gay couple's "camp behaviour" before losing his self-control and knocking two other men unconscious in a street fight last September, a court heard on Monday.

Stokes - on trial for alleged affray - acted in "revenge, retaliation or punishment" and was involved in a "sustained episode of significant violence", prosecutor Nicholas Corsellis told a jury at Bristol Crown Court in southwest England.

Stokes, 27, who starred on Saturday as England beat India in a Test Match at Edgbaston, is accused of knocking out 27-year-old Ryan Ali and Ryan Hale, 28, in a brawl.

All three are on trial and each denies the charge of affray.

The cricket star had earlier gestured towards gay couple Kai Barry and William O'Connor, mimicking their voices, the court heard.

The fight took place outside a Bristol nightclub after 02:00 on September 25 last year, the prosecutor said, just hours after Stokes played in a one-day international win over the West Indies.

Stokes, Ali and Hale were all involved in threatening and/or using unlawful violence towards each other, it is alleged.

"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," Corsellis said.

"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 including a fractured eye socket and required hospital treatment."

The three accused all sat together in the dock.

"This was not a trivial moment of unpleasantness. It was a sustained episode of significant violence that left onlookers shocked," Corsellis said.

"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 court heard that Stokes had been staying in a Bristol hotel with the England cricket team. He did not know the other two defendants, who were local and were friends.

Stokes and some England team-mates, including batsman Alex Hales, arrived at Mbargo nightclub at around 23:30. Stokes and Hales left at 00:46 and returned at 02:08.

Told that the club was closed, Stokes first offered doorman Andrew Cunningham £60 to get back in, then £300. Stokes then began insulting the bouncer's gold teeth and tattoos.

Described by the prosecution as two "flamboyant, extrovert and openly gay" regulars, Barry and O'Connor, then left the club. Footage showed they had had some contact with Stokes and Hales inside.

Cunningham saw Stokes "mimicking their voices and mannerisms" in a derogatory way, mocking their "camp behaviour", the prosecutor said.

Security camera footage showed Stokes copying hand gestures and flicking a cigarette at O'Connor's head.

Ali and Hale left Mbargo at 02:23 and engaged in conversation with Barry and O'Connor. Barry touched Ali's groin and Ali pushed him away.

Footage showed Ali raising a bottle and striking at Barry.

Stokes then threw a punch towards Ali and the pair fall to the ground and grappled.

As the brawl continued, Hales repeatedly tried to get Stokes to stop, the jury heard.

Ali was taken to hospital by ambulance and diagnosed with a fracture to the left of his face and a swollen left eye. He also had a cut and a cracked tooth.

Hale made his own way to the hospital. He had sustained a superficial cut and bruising.

Stokes was arrested at the scene.

"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'," the prosecutor said.

He told police in a statement that he felt the need to defend himself as he thought he was going to be attacked.

The trial, expected to last between five and seven days, resumes at 10:30 on Tuesday.

Stokes has not been selected for the second Test between England and India, at Lord's in London, which starts on Thursday.

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