Ben Stokes has pleaded not guilty to a charge of affray over an incident outside a Bristol nightclub in September.
His case was referred to Bristol Crown Court, with a first hearing set for March 12, although he may yet still be able to join England’s tour of New Zealand.
Stokes arrived at the Magistrates’ Court in the city shortly before 10am, to be met by a scrum of cameras and reporters. He spoke in court to confirm his name and address. Two other men charged with the same offence, Ryan Hale and Ryan Ali, also entered not-guilty pleas.
The case was referred up to Crown Court, with a trial set for next month. Stokes’ not-guilty plea was entered on the basis of self-defence and he was granted unconditional bail.
Stokes has been cleared to represent England in the meantime but a comeback in New Zealand has already been deferred once. He was named in England’s squad for the one-day series with New Zealand, which starts on February 25 and concludes on March 10, and would have likely also been a part of the Test squad for later in the month.
However, if Stokes is not required to attend the first Crown Court hearing, he could decide to join up with England at the soonest opportunity.
Stokes was charged with affray last month, having played no part in England’s Ashes tour of Australia while police investigated the Bristol incident. He was arrested in the early hours of September 26 on suspicion of causing actual bodily harm; his England team-mate Alex Hales was also present and is likely to be called as a witness as the trial.
After the announcement by the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS), Stokes tweeted his intention to defend himself: “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. 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.”