The charges relate to an incident that occurred at the end of the summer after a night out in Bristol following an England win. Stokes and his teammate, Alex Hales were caught up in an altercation outside Mbargo nightclub, which resulted in Stokes being arrested and now charged.
Originally, Stokes was arrested for the more serious offence of Actual Bodily Harm, after it was reported that someone involved suffered a broken jaw. However, it has now been confirmed that Stokes and two others, have been charged with an affray.
Guidance states, “Affray is a triable either-way charge, which means the case can ultimately be heard in either the magistrates’ court or the crown court.”
Since the charging decision has been made public, Stokes has released a statement. It is not clear yet whether Stokes will seek to plead guilty, or not-guilty, however in the statement, he has said, “I am keen to have the opportunity to clear my name.”
The ECB have now stated that they will convene in the next 48-hours and decide on Stokes’ availability to represent England.
The news will come as a disappointment to England and its fans, following the 4-0 drubbing suffered by the team during the Ashes, where England were missing the fire and skill often brought by Stokes.
What next for Stokes?
Stokes will now have to appear in Magistrates Court, alongside the 2 co-accused, where all 3will enter their pleas and it will be decided whether the case can be heard in the Magistrates Court, or whether the case is too serious and must then be dealt with in the Crown Court.
Further, the pleas entered by all 3 may place significance on the time the conclusion of this incident may take. It is likely that the Court will seek to deal with all 3 together, therefore unless all 3 plead guilty it may take some time for a trial to be carried out and concluded.
Guidance states, “[an affray] carries a maximum penalty when tried summarily – in the magistrates’ court – of a fine and/or up to six months in prison, and when tried on indictment – in the crown court – of up to three years in prison.” Therefore, at in the worst case, Stokes could face a custodial sentence, although there is nothing yet to suggest this case is that serious.
Following the conclusion of the case, if guilty, the ECB will convene and decide on the future of Stokes’ international career. There is little precedent within England, in relation to the ECB, or in County Cricket. Therefore, it is difficult to predict an outcome. However, although in different circumstances Mohammad Amir has returned to international cricket, following a conviction, prison sentence and a ban. However, readers will also be aware of Kevin Pietersen being deemed un-selectable by the ECB, for being untrustworthy. Clearly, the Pietersen issue is wholly different, however is certainly not as serious.
The other issues that he may face generally fall under two heads.
Firstly, the fact that he has been charged (and may go on to be convicted) may result in him being dismissed by England (and/or Durham too). As noted above, there is little precedent to rely on, however it is thought that sponsorship and team image may be a consideration. Notably, Stokes’ bat sponsor, New Balance, has terminated their contract with him following the incident and this is currently the England kit sponsor. Therefore, England will be keen to keep a good relationship with their sponsor(s) and maintain a good public image.
Secondly, if he is still allowed to play for England, whether immediately or after a ban, he may have problems getting a visa to enter and/or work in another country. Notable countries which may be particularly difficult are Australia, India, South Africa and even the US, if England were to tour the Windies – Lauderhill, Florida being a location the Windies have previously used for IT20’s. This may affect his chances of playing for England and also in foreign T20 competitions. However, by loose comparison, it seems that Mohammad Amir has not yet had such trouble, although his conviction was not for a violent offence. His one guarantee overseas may be that he has, or is entitled to dual nationality in New Zealand, having been born in Christchurch.
The problems worsen for England, who had hoped their star talisman may have been due back sooner than may now be possible.
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