Ben Stokes, the England allrounder, has vowed to clear his name after being charged by the Crown Prosecution Service with affray. He will face trial at Bristol Magistrates' Court at a later date, along with two other men.
The development comes more than three months after Stokes was arrested in Bristol on September 25, on suspicion of causing actual bodily harm following an altercation outside a Bristol nightclub. He has now been charged by the CPS with the public order offence of affray, which can carry with it a jail term of up to three years.
"The CPS was passed a file of evidence by Avon and Somerset Police on 29 November 2017 in relation to an incident of disorder in Bristol city centre," a CPS spokesman said. "Further material was subsequently received in late December. Following a review of all the available evidence, the CPS has today (Mon, 15 Jan) authorised the police to charge three men with affray in connection to the incident."
Avon and Somerset Police added in a statement: "Three men have today been charged in connection with an incident of disorder on Queens Road, Bristol on September 25 last year.
"Having carefully considered the evidence, the CPS has today authorised Ben Stokes, 26, of Durham, Ryan Ali, 28, and Ryan Hale, 26, both of Bristol, to each be charged with one count of affray. They will appear at Bristol magistrates' court at a date to be confirmed."
Responding to the news in a statement on his Twitter account, Stokes reiterated that he had given a "full and detailed account" of the incident to the police in the immediate aftermath of his arrest, adding that he had been advised not to elaborate further until the case comes to trial.
"I am keen to have an opportunity to clear my name but, on advice, the appropriate time to do this is when the case comes to trial," Stokes said. "The CPS' decision to charge me, as well as Ryan Ali and Ryan Hale, at least means that my account of what happened that night can come out in court and be made public. Until then, my focus is very much on cricket."
The incident occurred outside the Mbargo nightclub in the Clifton area of Bristol in the early hours of the morning after England's one-day international against West Indies on September 24, and resulted in one of those involved suffering a broken eye socket.
Stokes subsequently played no part in England's Ashes defence, as they fell to a 4-0 defeat in Australia. He returned to competitive action by signing for Canterbury in the domestic one-day and T20 competitions in New Zealand in December, for which he was granted a no-objection certificate by the ECB.
However, having been named in England's current ODI and T20 squads for the tours of Australia and New Zealand, Stokes is set to be officially withdrawn from availability, and is likely also to miss the Test tour of New Zealand in March and April, for which he was named last week. The ECB board is also set to meet to discuss developments.
A statement said: "ECB is aware that Ben Stokes has been charged with affray in relation to an incident in Bristol in September. The board will now convene within 48 hours to decide on Ben Stokes' availability to represent England at this stage."
There is also the matter of the IPL auction, which is set to take place on January 27-28 and in which Stokes was last year picked up as the most expensive overseas signing in the tournament's history.
The ECB's chief executive, Tom Harrison, recently suggested it could take six months to a year to resolve the situation if Stokes was charged, as he has now been, although he added that the board would not prevent him from playing in competitions such as the IPL in the meantime, while he is out of the England set-up.
Stokes' involvement, or otherwise, with England has overshadowed much of the winter. Having been initially named in the Ashes squad a few days after his arrest, footage was released by a newspaper appearing to show Stokes throwing a series of punches at a man in the street. England subsequently said he would not be considered for selection until investigations were complete.