Gay men thanked Ben Stokes for protecting them, court hears

England cricketer Ben Stokes walks into Bristol Crown Court. Stokes has been jointly charged with affray outside

On the CCTV footage shown to the jury, Stokes and fellow England cricketer Alex Hales are seen catching up with the four and overtaking them and then, the prosecution claimed, Stokes can be seen turning to look back at Barry and Ali.

They are jointly charged in connection with an incident in the Clifton Triangle area of Bristol on September 25 previous year - several hours after England had played a one-day global against the West Indies in the city.

"I asked him (Stokes), "If you are going to start on someone, start on me", he said.

The court heard that when PC Alway said to Mr Stokes "a guy over there was covered in blood and I've been told you punched him", he replied "because he was abusing my two friends for being gay".

"I did not know Ryan Hale or Ryan Ali and I was forced to make a decision as to how far they would be prepared to go and what they might do if they got the upper hand. As I was on my own, when I separated two of them more people carried on behind me", the statement continued.

Stokes himself is accused of earlier mocking the gay men outside the club and flicking a cigarette butt at them.

Mr Spure described seeing Stokes punch Ali, who was trying to get away, with a "clenched fist" in the road.

Nicholas Corsellis, prosecuting, told the jury: "Mr Cunningham observed Mr Stokes's behaviour towards them".

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Hale, after seeing them verbally abuse two gay men, Kai Barry and William O'Connor.

Stokes allegedly knocked Hale unconscious, and then Ali.

The court has heard it was Stokes who had struck Ryan Ali, knocking him to the floor.

"I was anxious it might be two on to one and I knew one had had a bottle just before this", he said.

"I was anxious it might be two on to one and I knew one had had a bottle", Stokes told police.

Medical evidence was also provided to verify the claims Ali sustained a swelling from a fractured eye-socket and a cracked molar during the attack.

Hale, who cycled to hospital, was found to have bruising and a 1.5in cut to his forehead.

Mr Hales was never arrested in relation to the incident. Stokes, of Stockton Road, Castle Eden, Durham; Ali, of Forest Road, Bristol; and Hale, of Burghill Road, Westbury-on-Trym, Bristol, each deny a joint charge of affray.

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