Ben Stokes has taken to the witness stand in Bristol Crown Court moments after the case against one of his co-defendants, Ryan Hale, was dismissed by the judge. Stokes, who is standing trial for affray alongside Ryan Ali, is expected to provide evidence for much of the rest of the day. He has so far told the jury that, on September 24, following England’s victory over West Indies in an ODI in Bristol, he enjoyed some beer in the dressing room at the ground before returning to the team hotel where he had dinner – and two or three pints of lager – with his partner, three team-mates and a couple of their partners. He also informed the court he had then gone to Mbargo nightclub in the city with several team-mates where he had “five or six” vodka and lemonades. From there, he went to the Pryzm nightclub for somewhere between 45 minutes to an hour with a few other team-mates – including Alex Hales – where he had “more than one” vodka and lemonade. He and Hales then decided to return to Mbargo where two team-mates, Jonny Bairstow and Liam Plunkett, had remained.
Moments before Stokes went to the witness stand, the judge instructed the foreman of the jury to enter a not guilty verdict against co-defendant, Hale. While the judge acknowledged footage of Hale running towards the fray with a length of metal torn from a road sign, he said there was no evidence of him attempting to use it. Instead, when Hale next appears in CCTV footage, he is shown removing his shirt and placing it under the head of Ali who has, in the judge’s words, been “knocked senseless” moments earlier. “There is no case to answer against Ryan Hale,” Judge Blair said.
“Properly led, you couldn’t come to the conclusion he was using unlawful violence. There hasn’t been any evidence that he did so. I have come to the conclusion you couldn’t properly convict him of the charge of affray.” Earlier the jury was told Stokes “could have killed” someone on the night he was arrested in a statement provided by Hale to the police in September and read to the court on the fourth day of the trial. “He could have killed me,” Hale said when questioned by the police on September 29.
“The way he was acting in that video, he could have beat the living hell out of me. That’s quite shocking to think I’ve been put in that situation. “He was not acting in self-defence. I was in the army. I know what self-defence is. You can use reasonable force. If someone has a bottle, you can unarm them. I was the innocent bystander getting brutally assaulted for nothing. There’s no self-defence and he’s not defending anyone else.” Hale also alleged that he saw Alex Hales, who was not arrested and is not on trial, punching and kicking Ali during the fracas. Hale also provided background to events leading to the episode in Bristol in the early hours of September 25.
He claimed one of the men he met in Mbargo nightclub “put his hand on my nob” and later “pinched my arse.” He insisted there was no falling out between the men and all involved regarded the episode as “banter.” He said he had no recollection of breaking up a road sign and running back to the fray with a length of metal torn from it. The trial continues.