Ben Stokes and Alex Hales are in the spotlight once more- but again, not in relation to their cricketing prowess. Instead, professional misconduct proceedings have been brought following the recent criminal trial.
The controversy surrounding the case is well documented, and the grainy CCTV footage has been circulated widely.
In summary: Stokes was found not guilty of affray by a jury at Bristol Crown Court in September, following a fracas in the city last year. His team-mate Alex Hales was interviewed by the Police but no charges were brought.
The pair might have been forgiven for thinking that the saga was behind them- but their sport’s governing body has other ideas. Reports this week confirm that they have now been charged with two counts of bringing the game into disrepute, and must now appear before the Cricket Discipline Commission in early December. The CDC proceedings were postponed until the Crown Court matter had reached its conclusion.
The CDC has been able to charge Stokes and Hales given their status as players contracted to the England team. This means that they are subject to the CDC’s disciplinary procedures and can be sanctioned by it. It does not matter that Stokes was unanimously acquitted and Hales was never charged- the CDC is not bound by the outcome of the criminal case.
When the CDC conducts its hearing and considers the evidence, it will not be bound by the criminal standard of proof (so it does not have to be satisfied beyond reasonable doubt.) Instead, it will apply the lower civil standard- has the case been proved on the balance of probabilities? Can the panel be sure that the game has been brought into disrepute?
Cricketers appearing before the CDC are usually legally represented, and Stokes and Hales are likely to be no different. They will be conscious of the potential repercussions- including suspensions and fines- making the need for expert advice a priority for them.
Action in relation to professional misconduct is being emphasised across all disciplines and sectors- not just high profile ones as in this case. If you are facing proceedings, early advice from a trusted professional is key. For a confidential, initial discussion please contact the Regulatory Law team on 0113 284 5000. We act for clients across all professional spheres so if you need advice, please do speak to us today.