England cricketer Ben Stokes was defending a gay couple from a potential homophobic attack when he became involved in a violent street fight, he has said in court.
Stokes was charged with affray over the incident, which took place in the early hours of September 25 outside a club in Bristol.
The prosecution at Bristol Crown Court has said Stokes was “making fun” of gay couple Kai Barry and William O’Connor for their “camp behaviour”, impersonating their hand movements, before he flicked his cigarette butt at them.
The cricketer has denied mocking Barry and O’Connor or flicking his cigarette at them, telling the court that he was instead defending the couple from what he believed was an imminent threat.
The 27-year-old has been accused of punching former serviceman Ryan Hale, 27, to the ground, before knocking out firefighter Ryan Ali, 28, during the fight, which also involved his teammate Alex Hales.
But Stokes defended these actions in court, reading from a statement which said: “These men were speaking to the gay guys in what I would call a harsh and abusive way,” BBC News has reported.
“It was homophobic in nature. It wasn’t at all like banter.”
He said he was moved to intervene in the situation, telling Ali and Hale to “leave it out – you shouldn’t be taking the piss because they’re gay”.
Ali responded: “Shut the f**k up and f**k off or I’ll bottle you,” Stokes said.
The cricketer, who has reported drinking five vodka mixer drinks and two or three beers before the incident, also said: “Ryan Ali and Ryan Hale were taller and broader than Kai and William.
“I noticed that they both had glass bottles in their hands.”
Stokes told police that this led him to think he was in danger of being assaulted.
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He said he and Ali then “scuffled,” adding: “I felt the need to defend myself.
“I felt I was going to be attacked. I didn’t feel I had an option to leave in the heat of the situation.”
CCTV footage shows the fight developing, but while off-duty police officer Mark Spure told the court he immediately identified Stokes as the “main aggressor,” the former England vice-captain said he was acting in self-defence.
“They were complete strangers,” the statement continued.
“We knew that they were prepared to use weapons that could do serious injury and I feared they could have other weapons with them.
“The force I used in defending us was reasonable and entirely justified when the circumstances are viewed objectively,” he added.
In a video seen by the jury, body camera footage from arresting officer PC Stacey Allway showed Stokes handcuffed in a police vehicle, being told: “You’re being arrested because of the man in the red with the blood.”
Stokes responded: “He was abusing my two friends for being gay.”
The trial continues.