Two gay men have thanked Ben Stokes for "sticking up for them" after the England cricket star was found not guilty of affray at Bristol Crown Court on Tuesday (August 14).
Kai Barry, 27, and William O'Connor, 21, said that the Durham all-rounder "didn't derserve being put through a trial" after he was arrested following a violent incient involving two other men outside a Bristol nightclub in September last year.
Mr Barry and Mr O'Connor, who were not summoned as witnesses during the the seven-day trial at Bristol Crown Cout, said the fight outside Mbargo nightclub began after Stokes, 27, stepped in to defend the pair from homophobic abuse from Ryan Hale, 28, and Ryan Ali, 28.
Recalling events leading up to the brawl, Mr Barry told ITV News: “Someone came across the road and tried to hit me with a bottle.
Mr Barry said: “I thought he [Stokes] was just a normal guy, someone sticking up for someone who was weaker than he was, which was quite nice.
“When I realised who he was, I thought ‘fair play’, because obviously he’s put his career at risk for someone he never knew.
“I’d say thank you definitely, thanks for being there. Sorry about all the drama we landed you in but a lot of appreciation.”
Mr O’Connell added: “He [Stokes] could see the people doing what they were doing and how homophobic they were and how nasty they came across.”
Mr Stokes was arrested in the early hours of 25 September 2017 after the fight, in which he punched Ryan Hale, 27, to the ground and then knocked out Ryan Ali, 28.
The jury at Bristol Crown Court took less than three hours to acquit Stokes and co-defendant Ali of affray.
During the trial, the jury heard from club bouncer Alan Cunningham that a drunken Stokes had been involved in mocking Mr Barry and Mr O'Connell before the fight, but Stokes claimed he had merely been exchanging "banter" with the men about his gold-trimmed white leather shoes.
It is unknown why Mr Barry and Mr O'Connell were not asked to testify during the trial, but according to the Guardian, judge Peter Blair QC told jurors it would be wrong for them to speculate about any witnesses the prosecution or defence did not call.
A spokeswoman for the Crown Prosecution Service said: “The evidence of Mr O’Connor and Mr Barry was disclosed to the defence but it was not deemed necessary to call them as witnesses in the case.”
Mr Stokes, who was dropped from the the England squad following his arrest, will now rejoin the team for the third Test against India at Trent Bridge on Saturday (18 August).
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."