England all-rounder Ben Stokes was charged with affray on Monday following an incident outside a nightclub, casting fresh doubt over his international future after he missed the side’s ill-fated Ashes tour. Cricket chiefs said they would meet within the next 48 hours to decide if he will be allowed to take part in England’s upcoming tour of New Zealand, for which he has already been selected.
The confrontation in September in the southwestern city of Bristol reportedly left a man with a fractured eye socket and saw Stokes, 26, suspended from international cricket until further notice by the England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB), meaning he missed the Australia tour.
“The CPS was passed a file of evidence by Avon and Somerset Police on 29 November in relation to an incident of disorder in Bristol city centre,” said a spokesman for England’s Crown Prosecution Service. “Further material was subsequently received in late December. Following a review of all the available evidence, the CPS has today authorised the police to charge three men with affray in connection with the incident.”
Stokes will appear alongside two other men at Bristol Magistrates’ Court on a date to be fixed following the incident which took place in the early hours of September 25 after England had beaten the West Indies in a one-day international match in the city.
He had already been ruled out of England’s ongoing one-day series in Australia and his next involvement in senior cricket could be in the lucrative Indian Premier League after he was cleared by the ECB to play in a second season of the franchise Twenty20 tournament.
England crashed to a 4-0 defeat in Australia in the absence of the dynamic Durham all-rounder, who is an aggressive middle-order batsman, lively paceman and excellent slip fielder. Stokes sparked talk of a possible England recall by playing for Canterbury, his New Zealand birth province, for a month, but has since returned home to be with his wife and young family.
Last week Stokes was included in England’s 16-man squad for their upcoming Test tour of his native New Zealand but the ECB added the rider that “his involvement remains subject to any relevant legal or disciplinary developments in relation to the incident in Bristol in September”.
England cricket chiefs responded to Monday’s announcement by saying they would decide this week if Stokes would be made available to play in New Zealand.
“ECB is aware that Ben Stokes has been charged with affray in relation to an incident in Bristol in September,” said a board spokesman. “The board will now convene within 48 hours to decide on Ben Stokes’s availability to represent England at this stage. A further announcement will be made in due course.”
Under English law, affray, which refers to fighting in public, can carry a sentence of up to three years in prison if the case is heard in a crown court. But if the case is tried in a magistrates’ court, the maximum penalty is a fine or six months in prison.