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Ben Stokes alleged to have mocked gay men, court hears

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Stokes affray trial begins in Bristol (1:17)

George Dobell reports from Bristol Crown Court after the first day of Stokes' trial for affray, following an incident in late September 2017 (1:17)

The trial of Ben Stokes has begun with jurors being told the England all-rounder acted "well beyond self-defence or the defence of others" when knocking two men unconscious in Bristol last September.

Stokes, who is being tried in Bristol Crown Court for affray alongside Ryan Ali and Ryan Hale, is alleged to have "lost control and started to attack with revenge, retaliation or punishment in mind" after he, or those he was with, believed they were being attacked with a bottle by Ali and a piece of metal pulled from a street sign by Hale. Ali, who served in the British Army in Afghanistan, received "significant injuries" including a fractured eye socket in the incident.

The incident is alleged to have started when Stokes (and England team-mate, Alex Hales), attempted to re-enter the Mbargo nightclub in which they, and several England colleagues, had been in earlier in the evening. It was after 2am, however, and a doorman Andrew Cunningham pointed out they did not allow entry at that time.

Having been refused entry, Stokes is alleged to have offered Cunningham up to £300 in an effort to persuade him. When that offer was declined, Stokes is alleged to have become abusive to the doorman and then mimicked and mocked a young gay couple, Kai Barry and William O'Connor, who were leaving the club. Furthermore, he is alleged to have flicked a cigarette butt at the head of one of the young men.

"He was clearly frustrated and annoyed," Nicholas Corsellis, acting for the prosecution, said. "He took to acting in a provocative and offensive way towards Mr Cunningham, Barry and O'Connor."

A short time later, the prosecution claim, Stokes and Hales came across Ali, Hale, Barry and O'Connor in the street. After a brief exchange of words, Ali raises a bottle he was drinking from in an attempt to hit Hales, though he actually made glancing contact with Barry. Stokes responded by throwing a punch at Ali and the pair, with Hale, then tussled on the ground.

Video footage shown to the jury then shows all the defendants get to their feet. And, the prosecution said: "If the incident had been restricted to that, it is highly unlikely we would be here today."

But while Hales is heard shouting "Stokes! That's enough" and both Ali and Hale implore him to stop, Stokes is shown pursuing the pair and striking Hale with such force that he is rendered unconscious.

"We know Mr Ali had a bottle and was using it," Corsellis continued. "Stokes may have been - may have been - acting in defence of himself or another in taking hold or striking of Mr Ali at this stage. You may use violence in public if you think it is necessary to defend yourself or others.

"But there is a big difference in using violence to defend someone and then deciding to retaliate or taking out a secondary attack on someone who had the temerity to attack you. That is exactly what you see in this clip. This is retribution and retaliation; not self-defence."

Further video footage appeared to show Hale, who works for the emergency services, come to his senses and, according to a witness, find a road sign, pull the metal legs from it and return to the fray.

The injury to Ali is alleged to have occurred shortly afterwards as the result of a punch from Stokes and was witnessed by an off-duty police officer, Mark Spure, who was attempting to break up the fight.

The jury were also shown body-worn camera footage recorded by the police at the time of Stokes' arrest. In it, he admits striking Ali but insists he did it "because he was abusing my two friends for being gay."

The incident took place in the early hours of September 25, a few hours after England had played an ODI in the city against West Indies.

Stokes, who arrived in court accompanied by his agent, the former England batsman Neil Fairbrother, and his wife Clare, who looked visibly upset at times. The ECB's director of communications, Chris Haynes, was also in court to hear evidence.

Encapsulating a grim day for England cricket, 16 potential jury members were asked if they had any interest in cricket that might, potentially, render them unsuitable for service in this case. None of them expressed any interest.

The case is expected to last up to seven days, with Stokes' defence likely to begin on Wednesday or Thursday.

The trial continues.