England allrounder Ben Stokes handed not guilty verdict in affray charge
England allrounder Ben Stokes has been cleared of affray by a jury in the Bristol Crown Court. @Getty Images

Ben Stokes has been found not guilty of affray by a jury at Bristol Crown Court over a 2017 nightclub brawl that saw him knock a man unconscious.

The unanimous verdict,  which also ruled that the co-accused Ryan Ali was not guilty, came after two-and-a-half hours of deliberation by 12-member jury on Tuesday.

During the six-day trial, Stokes had told Bristol Crown Court that he had acted in self-defence in the early hours of September 25, 2017 outside a Bristol nightclub. Last week, he also said that he had “stepped in” to defend two gay men who he described as being verbally abused, but was forced to defend himself when Ali, 28, and Ryan Hale, 27, threatened to hurt him.

The British Crown Court also heard the incident described by the prosecution as “a sustained episode of significant violence” from Stokes who had “lost control”. Hale, a former soldier allegedly knocked out by Stokes, told the court last Thursday that the England  allrounder “could have killed me”. The ex-serviceman was formally cleared of affray.

During his testimony last Friday, Stokes said he had a “significant memory blackout” but was “absolutely not” an angry man who had lost all control.

Stokes, Ali and Hale had been charged for an incident at the Clifton Triangle area of  Bristol in southwest England on September 25, 2017 in the city. The charge stated that their “conduct was such as would cause a person of reasonable firmness present at the scene to fear for his personal safety”, contrary to section 3(1) and (7) of the Public Order Act 1986.

Stokes had missed the Lord’s Test as he appeared in court, and his place went to Warwickshire allrounder Chris Woakes who was named Man of the Match for scoring his maiden Test century and taking four wickets in an innings victory for England. The ECB named an unchanged squad for the third Test at Trent Bridge starting Saturday, and in a brief statement said it would review Stokes’ position following the conclusion of the trial.

In an international career that began in 2011, Stokes has featured in 43 Test matches, 70 ODIs and 22 T20Is. He was a key member of the Durham team that lifted the County Championship in 2013 and was subsequently selected for the Ashes tour of Australia, during which he scored his maiden Test century in that 0-5 whitewash. Among the highlights of his Test career have been match-winning innings of 92 and 101 in a Lord’s victory over New Zealand, an epic 258 from 198 balls against South Africa in Cape Town and 6/36 in an Ashes-clinching victory at Trent Bridge in 2015.