The fight outside a Bristol nightclub involving a group of men including Ben Stokes and Alex Hales, which led to Stokes’ arrest, was described as being like “football hooligans”, a court has been told.
Stokes, who is standing trial for affray alongside Ryan Ali and Ryan Hale at Bristol Crown Court, was also described as “bullying” a young, gay couple while his England team-mate Hales – who has not been charged with any offence – was accused by a police officer of kicking a man in the head.
Max Wilson, who was a student in the Clifton Triangle area of the city when the incident occurred, described a group of “clearly drunk” men acting aggressively towards one another in the early hours of September 25. Wilson, who filmed part of the incident from his bedroom on an upper floor of a building in the area – footage which was later acquired and published by The Sun – confirmed that he had described the men’s behaviour as “like football hooligans” in a police statement and is heard to gasp “F***!” in the footage after Stokes punches Hale.
“It was just such a fierce punch,” Wilson said. “It just took me by surprise. I felt a bit sorry for the guy who got punched. It looked like he had his hands up.”
Wilson’s footage – shown to the jury several times over the first couple of days of the trial – also showed, according to PC Daniel Adams, the officer in the case, Hales kicking Ali in the head as he lay on the pavement.
Asked by Stephen Mooney QC, acting on behalf of Hale, whether it would be fair to describe CCTV footage as showing him “kicking a man in the head,” PC Adams replied: “That’s what it looks like, yes. He’s definitely used his feet on three occasions.”
Hales was questioned under caution after the incident but not arrested. He is not on trial. Audio from the footage suggests he tried to pull Stokes away from the fray on several occasions – he is repeatedly heard shouting “Stop, Stokes! No! Enough!” – with both Wilson and other witnesses agreeing he was “trying to stop him [Stokes].”
“Mr Hales is pulling Mr Stokes back by his t-shirt,” PC Adams stated as he commented on footage for the benefit of the jury.
Under cross-examination Wilson confirmed he did not think Hales or Stokes had initiated the violence by shoving “another person” but conceded he could not be certain.
Much of the second day of the trial was occupied by evidence provided by Andrew Cunningham, a 37-year-old door supervisor at the Mbargo nightclub in the city. Having first accused Stokes of abusing him and mocking two gay men, William O’Connor and Kai Barry, he went on to suggest the England cricketer had been bullying the pair.
In particular, he disagreed with Stokes’ defence barrister, Gordon Cole QC, who suggested CCTV footage from outside the Mbargo nightclub showed Stokes engaged in “joking banter” with Barry and O’Connor. And, under-examination, it was suggested that Stokes was so enraged by his interaction with Cunningham that he left the area around the nightclub and headed up the road – where the violent incidents occurred – in an angry and frustrated mood.
“He was trying to provoke them,” Cunningham said. “They [Stokes and Hales] were laughing at them, not with them.
“I didn’t like the fact he [Stokes] flicked a cigarette butt [at O’Connor]. These two guys [Barry and O’Connor] are harmless guys. Not aggressive.
“That’s when I stepped in, because they hadn’t done anything wrong. They’re only little guys. I said ‘If you want to start on anyone, start on me.’
“He wouldn’t look at me or acknowledge I was there then.”
With Cunningham suggesting that Stokes “didn’t seem drunk,” Hale’s representative in the trial, Mr Mooney, said Stokes’ behaviour “can’t be put down to that.” Instead, Mooney alleged, Stokes finally left the area around the nightclub, feeling angry and frustrated.
“Was it bullying?” Mooney asked.
“Yes,” Cunningham replied.
“It wasn’t drunkenness,” Mooney continued. “Just unpleasantness and aggressiveness.
“He was aggressive, threatening, unpleasant, bullying. That was his state of mind he was in when he walked up towards The Triangle.”
The final witness of the day, Lauren Sweeney, outlined why she called the police on the night of the incident. Looking out of the window of her flat, she alleges she saw Hale – who had just recovered from a blow from Stokes that had briefly rendered him unconscious – break up a road-sign and take a length of metal from it in the direction of the other defendants.
“I thought he was going to use the road-sign in an aggressive act,” Sweeney said. “I didn’t think it was self-defence. It was more than just self-defence. It was an aggressive run towards them.”
Under cross-examination, PC Adams agreed that both Ali and Hale had bottles at the time of the original fracas and accepted it appeared that Ali had used his “to aim a blow at Mr Barry.”
Commenting as CCTV footage was played to the jury, PC Adams said: “Mr Stokes intervenes by throwing a punch. He appears to throw a punch while Hale is in defensive mode. Hale and Ali are backing away. Hales is following Mr Stokes and trying to pull him back. Mr Stokes brushes him off. Ali and Hale are moving backwards. Their arms are up in a defensive gesture. Stokes strikes out at him. The final punch clear for all to see. It floors him [Hale].”
Meanwhile the day began and ended with Judge Blair, Recorder of Bristol, reminding the jury to ignore and avoid “biased and inaccurate comments” on social media.
The trial continues.