Actor sues The Guardian for £10 million in defamation claim
The actor Noel Clarke is suing The Guardian for £10 million over the publication of articles which alleged that he had engaged in sexual misconduct, harassment and bullying against a number of female colleagues.
The allegations were first revealed by The Guardian in 2021. In March 2023, the Metropolitan Police determined that there was insufficient evidence to bring criminal charges against Mr Clarke. Mr Clarke has now issued a claim against the newspaper, arguing that its articles were defamatory and that they had deeply impacted his career and resulted in a substantial loss of earnings.
The original article was published on 29 April 2021 with the headline “Sexual predator: actor Noel Clarke accused of groping, harassment and bullying by 20 women”. It contains the accounts of a number of Mr Clarke’s female colleagues who allege that they were either the victims of, or witnessed, his inappropriate behaviour on numerous occasions. Mr Clarke categorically rejects the allegations.
All the allegations date between 2004 and 2019. However, The Guardian only became of aware of them when the British Academy of Film and Television Awards (“BAFTA”) announced that Mr Clarke was set to win the prestigious award for Outstanding British Contribution to Cinema at the 2021 BAFTA ceremony.
At the same time that Mr Clarke was set to receive this honorary award, numerous women approached The Guardian making allegations including bullying, harassment and unwanted touching and groping. The allegations were made by women who had worked with Mr Clarke in a professional capacity both on and off the sets of films and TV shows. Just one day after The Guardian published its article, Mr Clarke was stripped of his BAFTA award.
In order to commence a libel action, Mr Clarke has to show that the allegations have caused serious harm to his reputation. If the Guardian then seeks to assert the truth of the allegations, there will then be a fully contested trial of the action.
If he is able to successfully prove (on the balance of probabilities) that the allegations are indeed false, Mr Clarke can claim three heads of damages as compensation: general damages, aggravated damages and special damages.
The purpose of general damages is to compensate a claimant for an injury sustained. In this case, the loss of reputation which Mr Clarke suffered as a result of the publiations. .
Aggravated damages serve to compensate a claimant for the persistence of the defendant’s wrong. The Guardian has not retracted its allegations, so that if they are found to be false, it could be liable for such damages. As Sir Tom Bingham set out in John v Mirror Group Newspapers : “compensatory damages may and should compensate for additional injury caused… by the defendant’s conduct of the action, as when he persists in an unfounded assertion that the publication was true”.
Finally, special damages will compensate Mr Clarke for any financial loss he suffered as a result of the publications. .
Mr Clarke is claiming a substantial sum of special damages totalling £10 million. He asserts that after The Guardian’s publications, every existing professional contract he had was cancelled, and that he had not been offered a single one since.
The damages include Mr Clarke’s lost fees for his voided contracts in the shows Bulletproof (totalling £1,015,000), Viewpoint (£470,000) and Highwater (£60,000), and most notably his exit from his former production company Unstoppable (where he has projected to have lost shares valued at £7 million).
The Guardian is yet to file a Defence to Mr Clarke’s claim. If it does, it will rely on the defences set out at ss. 1 and 4 of the Defamation Act 2013, namely that its publications were substantially true and/or were in the public interest.
Defamation claims brought in response to sexual allegations are becoming increasingly common, as shown for example in the High Court case of Hay v Cresswell  (see Taylor Hampton’s article) and the defamation claim brought by former US President Donald Trump against E. Jean Carroll.
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Taylor Hampton assists individuals, celebrities and companies who have been accused of defamation. For more information on how we support victims of defamatory comments contact Taylor Hampton on 02074275970