Stokes fined £30k but free to play for England after ECB investigation

England all-rounder Ben Stokes has expressed his relief after escaping further punishment for his involvement in a bar brawl in Bristol last year.
The 27-year-old is available for immediate selection after the Cricket Disciplinary Committee fined him £30,000 and imposed a total ban of eight matches, which they accept he has already served.
Stokes was left out of England's tours of Australia and New Zealand over the winter and returned to the squad for the summer series against India.  
Alex Hales, meanwhile, was given a four-match suspension, two of which they accept he has already served and the other two are suspended for 12 months.
Hales was also fined a total of £17,500, £10,000 of which is suspended for 12 months.
Stokes was cleared of affray at Bristol Crown Court earlier this year, after a trial in relation to an incident outside a nightclub in the city in September 2017. Hales was with Stokes at the time of the incident, but faced no criminal charges. 
All-rounder Stokes was omitted from England's squad for last winter's Ashes series, but has since been restored to the international fold.
In a statement, Stokes said: 'Everyone will now be aware that the CDC disciplinary proceedings have now concluded and I accept the decision of the Panel.
I had entered guilty pleas to bringing the game in to disrepute much earlier in the process and I want to thank the panel for their time and consideration now that the hearing has ended.
'The criminal charges and, subsequently, the disciplinary charges have made it difficult to make public comment about the issues.
I have already apologised to my team mates, coaches and support staff for the consequences of my actions in Bristol.
'I regret the incident ever happened and I apologise to England supporters and to the public for bringing the game in to disrepute.
'I want to say thank you to everyone who has supported me throughout this process.
'Cricket and family are my life. This incident has been a huge burden for the last 15 months. I am relieved to get back to playing the game that I love without this hanging over me. Although the disciplinary process is now over, I have learned lessons that will stay with me for much longer.' 
Hales, meanwhile, said he was 'relieved' the disciplinary process had been concluded.
'There is no doubt I fell below the high standards expected of an international sportsman and that was the reason for my decision to admit the charges and accept the punishment handed down,' he posted on Twitter.
'I sincerely apologise for putting myself in a position which allowed these very regrettable incidents to happen.'
The disciplinary hearings took place on Wednesday and Friday, with each player charged with two counts of breaching ECB Directive 3.3, which states: 'No participant may conduct themselves in a manner or do any act or omission at any time which may be prejudicial to the interests of cricket or which may bring the ECB, the game of cricket or any cricketer or group of cricketers into disrepute.'
Former Derbyshire batsman Tim O'Gorman - now a respected lawyer and the panel chairman - former Gloucestershire seamer Mike Smith, an employment lawyer, and judge Chris Tickle, a long-serving Warwickshire committee member, make up the Cricket Disciplinary Commission panel and have the power to ban, fine or reprimand the pair. 
The whole affair has been a cloud over English cricket ever since the night when the friends went out, along with other team-mates, to celebrate victory in the third one-day international at Bristol.
England coach Trevor Bayliss spoke for the whole squad when he said after the 3-0 victory over Sri Lanka in Colombo last week that he very much hoped Stokes would be cleared to tour the Caribbean early next year.
Stokes has never lost the support of team-mates and coaching staff, who apparently accept he was defending two gay men when he became embroiled in a punch-up with Ryan Hale and Ryan Ali.
Stokes and his legal team had to explain how he became involved at such a late hour when he was on international duty.
Hales' role was under scrutiny as the only price he has paid so far has been to miss the last two one-day internationals of that 2017 series and lose his 50-over place to Jason Roy as a consequence.
Not only did Stokes have to defend his behaviour that night in Bristol, but also for appearing to mock the disabled son of television personality Katie Price in social-media footage that emerged after the brawl. Hales, too, faces a second charge pertaining to his use of social media.
The pair had much to explain. Stokes, for example, admitted in court he had drunk more than 10 alcoholic drinks midway through the series.
There was no curfew in place but it is still astonishing that Stokes and Hales, together with several other members of the team, were out drinking in a student area of Bristol at such a late hour.
Other players have been fined for being out so late and warned as to their future conduct, but, crucially, they did not get involved in the physical altercations that shamed the game.
Stokes has never shown any sign of remorse or regret for his involvement even though Bayliss, his biggest supporter, has said he expects him to make a full and public apology.
Hales, meanwhile, was said in court to have 'kicked and stamped' on a man even though he was never charged nor called as a witness in the subsequent affray case against Stokes. 

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