Jury finds Ben Stokes not guilty of affray

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After a week of court proceedings, Ben Stokes has been found not guilty of affray, by the jury, unanimously and subsequently added to England’s squad for the third Test against India. The England all-rounder had been arrested on the suspicion of causing actual bodily harm and charged with affray following an incident outside a nightclub named Mbargo in Bristol last September, which left one man in the hospital.
After playing a pivotal role in England’s victory at Edgbaston, the trial caused Stokes to miss the comprehensive victory over India at Lord’s which gave England a 2-0 lead in the five match series. Shortly after that victory in the capital, the ECB announced that he had been left out of the squad for the third game in Nottingham, pending the outcome of the trial at Bristol Crown Court.
Following the jury’s decision, the ECB have now confirmed that Stokes has been added to England’s squad for the Trent Bridge Test, starting on August 18, although it remains to be seen whether he will be included in the final eleven after the impressive showings of Chris Woakes and Sam Curran so far this series.
The ECB also confirmed that the Cricket Disciplinary Commission (CDC) will begin their disciplinary process against Stokes, and Alex Hales who was also involved in the incident last year. An ECB Spokesperson said: “Now that the legal proceedings have concluded, the disciplinary process for Ben Stokes and Alex Hales can be scheduled by the Cricket Discipline Commission [CDC].
“Ben Stokes will now join the England squad for the 3rd Specsavers Test against India, which starts at Trent Bridge on Saturday.
“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.”
Given that Stokes has already missed five Test matches, seven ODIs and four T20Is as a result of a suspension imposed in the immediate aftermath of the incident, it could have a bearing on any penalties handed out by the CDC. Hales missed two ODIs, also at the end of the West Indies series, before returning to the ODI squad for the five-match series against Australia at the start of the year.
The CDC, as an independent body, will be in no rush to set a date for the hearing. Stokes would have almost certainly faced a lengthy ban had he been found guilty of the affray charge, which might have seen him miss next summer’s World Cup and Ashes series. The ECB themselves will launch an employment review and there is a chance he will miss the winter tours to Sri Lanka and West Indies.
The trial at the Bristol Crown Court began on August 6, and saw Stokes being branded as the main aggressor in the events that unfolded last year, and was said to have acted out of spite. As the trial went on, there were accusations that he lied to the jury and exaggerated his version of the story to justify his behaviour. Stokes remained defiant and reiterated that he threw punches at Ryan Ali and Ryan Hale in an act of self-defence.
In his closing statements in court, Stokes’s barrister Gordon Cole stated that all the evidence presented against Stokes were ambiguous and even shifted focus to England teammate Alex Hales. “You will see Mr Hales on one occasion appearing to kick. So, when the prosecution seeks to hang all the blame at Ben Stokes’s door by saying he rendered people unconscious, just look at what happened.
“Think about kicks and stamps. Does it follow that all of these injuries are properly attributed to Ben Stokes? We say no. We say that the evidence is ambiguous,” he had said.