Wed, Aug 08, 2018 - Page 16 News List

Stokes mocked gay couple before skirmish: court


England cricketer Ben Stokes mocked a gay couple’s “camp behavior” before losing his self-control and knocking two other men unconscious in a street fight in September last year, 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 on Saturday starred as England beat India in a Test match at Edgbaston, England, is accused of knocking out Ryan Ali, 27, 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 toward gay couple Kai Barry and William O’Connor, mimicking their voices, the court heard.

The fight took place outside a Bristol nightclub after 2am on Sept. 25 last year, just hours after Stokes played in a one-day international win over the West Indies, the prosecutor said.

Stokes, Ali and Hale were all involved in threatening and/or using unlawful violence toward each other, the prosecutor added.

“During the incident, Mr Stokes lost his control and started to attack with revenge, retaliation or punishment in mind. Well beyond acting in self-defense or defense 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,” Corsellis said. “Mr Ali received significant injuries including a fractured eye socket.”

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.”

Stokes and some England teammates, including batsman Alex Hales, arrived at the Mbargo nightclub at about 11:30pm. Stokes and Hales left at 12:46am and returned at 2:08am.

Told that the club was closed, Stokes first offered doorman Andrew Cunningham money to get back in, before beginning to insult 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.

Cunningham saw Stokes “mimicking their voices and mannerisms” in a derogatory way, mocking their “camp behavior,” the prosecutor said.

Security camera footage appeared to show Stokes copying hand gestures and flicking a cigarette at O’Connor’s head.

Ali and Hale left Mbargo at 2:23am and engaged in conversation with Barry and O’Connor, before Barry touched Ali’s groin and Ali pushed him away, jurors heard.

Footage appeared to show Ali raising a bottle and striking at Barry.

Stokes then threw a punch toward Ali and the pair fell and grappled, the court heard.

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

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 is expected to last between five and seven days.

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