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Ben Stokes arriving at court in Bristol for a previous hearing

England cricketer Ben Stokes has pleaded not guilty after being accused of fighting outside a Bristol nightclub in September.

The 26-year-old Durham all-rounder is charged with affray after a man allegedly suffered a broken eye socket.

At Bristol Crown Court on Monday, Mr Stokes denied the charges via video link from New Zealand where he is on duty with the England squad.

Mr Stokes is accused jointly with Ryan Hale and Ryan Aslam Ali.

Mr Hale, 26, and 28-year-old Mr Ali, both from Bristol, also deny the same charge of affray.

The trial date has been set for 6 August and the three defendants were granted unconditional bail.

Mr Stokes, Mr Hale and Mr Ali were detained early on 25 September following a disturbance in the Clifton Triangle area of the city – several hours after England had played a one-day international against the West Indies.

What is affray?

The charge of affray is made under the Public Order Act 1986 and effectively relates to fighting in public.

It is a triable either-way offence, which means it can be heard in either the magistrates’ court or the crown court.

It carries a maximum penalty when tried summarily – in the magistrates’ court – of a fine or up to six months in prison, and when tried on indictment – in the crown court – of up to three years in prison.

As a result of the charge, Mr Stokes missed the Ashes series, which hosts Australia won 4-0, although he was allowed to play some domestic matches in New Zealand.

England declared him available once more after he indicated a plea of not guilty at Bristol Magistrates’ Court in February.

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Ben Stokes made his Test debut in Australia in 2013

England are due to play the first test match of a five-game series against India at Edgbaston Cricket Ground in Birmingham between 1-5 August, with Mr Stokes’s trial due to start a day later.

The trial is expected to last between five and seven days, which means there is a risk Mr Stokes could miss the second test which starts at Lord’s Cricket Ground on 9 August.

The England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB) said: “We fully respect the legal process and the player’s right to defend himself against the charge.”

In January the ECB said that, “given the potential length of time to trial”, it would not be “fair, reasonable or proportionate for Ben Stokes to remain unavailable for a further indeterminate period”.

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