Noel Clarke: Actor faces ‘trial by media’ after sexual abuse allegations, court hearings | Ents & Arts News

Actor Noel Clarke faced a “media lawsuit” after The Guardian newspaper published allegations of sexual misconduct, a court has heard.

The 47-year-old is suing the paper’s publishers Guardian News and Media (GNM) for libel over eight articles – including the April 2021 investigation which said 20 women who knew Mr. Clarke in a professional capacity had made allegations of misconduct.

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

In an initial hearing in the High Court on Thursday, Adam Speker KC, Mr Clarke’s barrister, said the “overall impression” of the articles was “clearly one of guilt”.

Speker said the first article of the claim contained the “absolutely venomous allegation” that Mr Clarke was a “sexual predator”.

“They knew exactly what message they were sending by calling him a sexual predator in the first two words of the headline,” he told the London court.

The overall impression of the articles was “gotcha”, Mr Speker said.

“He [Mr Clarke] had had a very distinguished career… then the dam breaks, the women break their silence and they say ‘j’accuse’.”

Clarke, best known for her roles in Doctor Who and Kidulthood, had her Bafta membership suspended after the allegations emerged as TV channels cut ties.

“This media trial, carried out by the most widely read newspaper for people in the film and entertainment industry, led, unsurprisingly, to Mr Clarke being immediately ‘cancelled’ in various ways,” Mr Speker said in written submissions.

Noel Clarke arrives at the Royal Courts of Justice, central London, for an initial hearing in his libel claim against the publisher of The Guardian newspaper

The court was later told that the police had decided that no criminal investigation would be launched into the allegations of sexual abuse against Clarke.

Scotland Yard said in a statement in March 2022 that there had been a thorough assessment by special detectives, but they had decided that the information did not meet the threshold for a criminal investigation.

While Mr Clarke’s denials were included in The Guardian’s reporting, Mr Speker said it “doesn’t come close” to mitigating the impact of the articles.

“There is nothing he could say, and nothing he says, that minimizes what the natural and ordinary reader would have taken from the articles: that he is a sexual predator and is guilty of the charges,” he said.

Gavin Millar KC, representing GNM, said the articles would be read as reporting “reasonable grounds to suspect” that Mr Clarke had abused his power, bullied or sexually harassed women, rather than a direct allegation of guilt.

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“The appropriate meaning is therefore a general charge, essentially of abuse of power to subject women to sexual harassment and other related misconduct,” Mr Millar said in written submissions.

“In this context, no reasonable reader would assume that an assertion is true merely because it has been made.”

Millar also said that a normal reader would understand that the claims against Clarke were a matter of public interest.

The hearing before Mr Justice Johnson is due to conclude on Thursday with a decision expected at a later date.

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