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England cricketer Ben Stokes ‘mocked gay men before fight, court hears

The former England Test team vice-captain is standing trial on charges of affray.

By Will Stroude

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

The former England Test team vice-captain, 27, was arrested and charged with affray last September after knocking Ryan Ali, 28, and Ryan Hale, 27, unconscious outside Bristol nightclub Mbargo.

Reports claimed at the time that Stokes, who will miss England’s second test match against India, was defending two gay men from abuse, but jurors heard that he was also involved in mocking the pair before his altercation with Mr Ali and Mr Hale began.

All three men are currently standing trial and deny affray, BBC News reports.

A bouncer at the club, Andrew Cunningham, told jurors that Stokes became “upset” and “aggressive” after he was told he would not be allowed to re-enter the club shortly after 2am on 25 September 2017.

Cunningham said the cricketer then began mimicking the voices and mannerisms of a nearby gay couple, Kai Barry and William O’Connor, in “a derogatory way”.

The bouncer also said that Stokes flicked a cigarette butt at Mr O’Connor.

Jurors heard how Mr Stokes later knocked Mr Ali unconcious before doing the same to Mr Hale.

“This was not a moment of trivial unpleasantness, but a sustained episode of violence which left onlookers shocked,” prosecutor Nicholas Corsellis said.

“Mr Stokes’s behaviour outside the nightclub sets an important tone for what happened that night.”

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

The prosecutor added that Stokes’s actions went “well beyond acting in self-defence or defence of another”.

In a prepared statement following his arrest, Stokes said he saw two men speaking to two gay men in a “harsh and abusive” way, and that he “took exception to this and said ‘leave it out'”.

The trial continues.