BSP- 16 England star Stokes acquitted of affray

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England star Stokes acquitted of affray

BRISTOL, United Kingdom, Aug 14, 2018 (BSS/AFP) – England cricketer Ben
Stokes was found not guilty of affray in a unanimous decision by a jury in
less than three hours of deliberations on Tuesday following a trial at
Bristol Crown Court.

The 27-year-old — whose co-defendant Ryan Ali was also found unanimously
not guilty — had been charged following a brawl hours after England played
the West Indies in a one-day international in Bristol, southwest England, in
September last year.

His wife, Clare, cried when the not guilty verdicts were returned while
Stokes closed his eyes with relief and then looked up.

Stokes shook hands with Ali on leaving the dock at the end of the trial
that lasted seven days.

Whilst Ali emerged smiling Stokes — whose travails are not over as he
faces a disciplinary hearing by the England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB) —
was stony-faced as he stood behind his solicitor Paul Lunt who read out a
statement.

“Today’s verdict represents the end of an 11-month ordeal for Ben during
which time he has had to maintain his silence at times when many of social
media, and certain parts of the press, pre-determined his guilt long before
the trial began,” said Lunt.

Stokes the statement went on had lost as a result of the incident not only
the vice-captaincy of the England team but also missed the Ashes series in
Australia — seen by many England players as the series to play in — and
other games.

At the start of the trial the prosecution tried to amend the indictment and
charge Stokes with two counts of assault occasioning actual bodily harm but
this was rejected by the judge.

And half way through the trial Stokes’s legal team attempted to have the
case against him dropped but this was also refused by the judge.

The jury had also been warned twice by the judge Peter Blair about press
coverage and social media on the latter occasion instructing them to avoid
looking at commentary of the case after Stokes’s lawyer raised the issue.

One Twitter user created a poll asking whether Stokes should play cricket
for England again if he was convicted but escaped a prison sentence. –
‘Memory blackout’ –

New Zealand-born Stokes said in his testimony last Friday he had a
“significant memory blackout” but he was “absolutely not” an angry man who
had lost all control.

Stokes — who was with England team-mate Alex Hales — said he intervened
because 28-year-old Ali and his friend Ryan Hale — who had been acquitted
earlier in the trial — had directed alleged homophobic abuse at gay men
William O’Connor and Kai Barry as they walked away from Mbargo nightclub.

Hales, who was interviewed under caution but never arrested in relation to
the incident, was seen on the CCTV stamping and kicking Ali in the head as he
lay on the floor.

Neither O’Connor nor Barry gave evidence but the judge said imaginations
should not run riot as to why that had been the case.

“It is for the prosecution and defence as to what evidence is presented to
the jury,” said Blair.

“There is no place for guessing or speculating.”

Stokes went out celebrating after beating the West Indies in a match in
Bristol on September 24.

Stokes said he would have had a bottle of beer after the match, two or
three pints at the hotel, five or six vodka and lemonades and then
“potentially had some Jagerbombs” in Mbargo.

Ali, who is an emergency services worker, had drunk six or seven Jack
Daniels and Cokes during his night out with former soldier Hale.

Ali who was knocked unconscious and suffered a fractured eye socket, said
in his evidence he remained in the care of a surgeon and still suffered from
double vision.

He said his memory of the night was “incomplete” due to his head injury.

Stokes can at least for the moment refocus on cricket as following the
announcement of the verdict he earned a recall to the England squad for the
third Test with India that gets underway on Saturday at Trent Bridge.

However, the ECB statement also confirmed he and Hale would undergo
disciplinary proceedings and in light of unedifying evidence given during the
trial added there was much to digest.

“Considerable detail has been heard in this week-long court case and, in
due course, there will be a range of matters for the Board to fully
consider.”

BSS/AFP/MRI/2042 hrs