Guardian ruined Noel Clarke’s career with sex abuse claims, court told

Noel Clarke
Noel Clarke outside court where he is suing the Guardian for libel - PA

Noel Clarke, the Doctor Who and Kidulthood star, was subjected to a “trial by media” which led to him being wrongly “cancelled” over claims he was a sexual predator, a court has heard.

Clarke is accusing the Guardian newspaper of libelling him in a series of stories which reported claims by several women that he was a sexual abuser, despite no police investigation being mounted.

The High Court was told on Thursday that the stories had the effect of damaging the actor’s reputation in the public eye and destroying his career.

In the articles, published between April and May 2021, the Guardian reported claims by around 20 women that over several years Clarke had acted improperly towards them in a sexual and criminal way.

Adam Speker KC, acting for Clarke, told the court: “This trial by media, conducted by the most read newspaper for people in the film and entertainment industry, led, unsurprisingly, to Clarke being immediately ‘cancelled’ in various ways.”


The High Court heard that following the publication of the Guardian’s investigation ITV dropped its primetime drama Viewpoint, starring Clarke, and Sky stopped work on the next series of his award-winning police show Bulletproof.

At the same time, Clarke was suspended by the prestigious British Academy of Film and Television Arts (Bafta).

In a statement at the time the actor “vehemently” denied “any sexual misconduct or criminal wrongdoing”.

In July this year Mr Clarke revealed he was planning to sue the Guardian for £10 million, though a compensation figure was not laid before the court during Thursday’s proceedings.

In his written submission to a trial of preliminary issues in the case, Mr Speker said: “The first article was a major ‘j’accuse’ moment for Clarke and the film industry, with Clarke being described in the first two words of the headline of the online edition as a ‘sexual predator’.”

‘Absolutely toxic allegation’

He later told the court it was not enough simply for the Guardian to describe the claims as “allegations” for the reader not to believe that he was guilty.

“‘Sexual predator’ is an absolutely toxic allegation and they know it by using it in the headline of the article,” Mr Speker said

“The impression given in every one of these articles is that given what these women have said, there’s nothing he could say that would minimise what the ordinary reader would take from these articles – that he’s a sexual predator,” he said, adding: “The denials are recorded in order to be dismissed, not to send the message to the reader that maybe none of this is true.”

Clarke’s legal team argue that even after Scotland Yard announced in March 2022 that it was not carrying out a criminal investigation into the allegations and that he had not been interviewed or charged, the Guardian still wrote about the actor as if he was guilty of sexual misconduct.

In his submission, Mr Speker, who addressed the court with Clarke sitting behind him dressed in a dark suit and tie, said: “The angle was that the women were ‘dismayed’ and ‘angered’ that the police were taking no action, and there had been, therefore, for them, a denial of justice.”

Clarke’s legal team also argue that the reporting of his immediate suspension from Bafta added to the impression that he was guilty.

“These are not reports that Mr Clarke is going to be investigated, but that various [industry] bodies have already acted,” Mr Speker told the court. “The impression is given that they acted because they believed the women.”

At this stage Mr Justice Jeremy Johnson KC, presiding over the hearing, commented: “People read newspaper articles knowing that the fact it’s in a newspaper doesn’t always mean it’s true.”

‘Fair and balanced’

The Guardian strongly challenges Clarke’s libel claim, saying that it had presented a fair and balanced report of serious allegations of sexual misconduct by a number of women in the film and TV industry.

In his submissions Gavin Millar KC, for the newspaper, stated that a normal reader “will not automatically assume that the defendant was adopting or endorsing an allegation by reporting it”, but would understand that the claims against Mr Clarke were a matter of public interest.

He pointed out that the stories included careful and detailed denials by Mr Clarke of the allegations, with the first 13 paragraphs of one story including the word deny’ or ‘denied’ seven times.

As Mr Clarke repeatedly shook his head Mr Millar said that readers would not assume that the actor was guilty of the allegations simply because he had been suspended by Bafta.

He continued: “The fact that a piece of writing contains both an allegation of misconduct and a counter-allegation denying the alleged misconduct may well lead the reader to understand that there are grounds to investigate or suspect the claimant of misconduct, rather than that the claimant is actually guilty of anything.”

A decision in the case is expected at a later date.