Noel Clarke’s libel claim set for trial next year, High Court told

Actor Noel Clarke’s High Court libel claim against The Guardian newspaper’s publisher is set to go to trial early next year, the court has been told.

Mr Clarke is suing Guardian News and Media (GNM) over eight articles accusing him of sexual misconduct, including one from April 2021 which said 20 women who knew Mr Clarke in a professional capacity had come forward with the allegations.

The former Doctor Who actor is bringing a libel and data protection claim against the publisher, claiming in a statement at the time that he “vehemently” denied “any sexual misconduct or criminal wrongdoing”.

He is seeking £10 million in special damages, with his barrister, Adam Speker KC, stating in written submissions for a preliminary hearing on Thursday that the trial could go ahead as early as January 2025.

Gavin Millar KC, for GNM, said in written submissions that the case “is perhaps the most substantial piece of libel litigation to come before the court in recent years”.

A further hearing will take place at a later date.

The court has previously heard that police decided no criminal investigation would be launched over the sexual offence allegations against Mr Clarke.

Scotland Yard said in a statement in March 2022 that there had been a thorough assessment by specialist detectives, but it was determined the information would not meet the threshold for a criminal investigation.

Mr Clarke may face the women who have accused him of sexual misconduct if they give oral evidence at trial, with barristers for GNM telling an earlier hearing that the publisher wished to rely on evidence of the women’s “mistreatment at the hands of the claimant” to “vindicate its journalism”.

In a judgment last year, Mr Justice Johnson said that seven of the articles “mean that there are strong grounds to believe that the claimant is guilty of various forms of sexual harassment” with the eighth meaning “grounds to investigate”.

The judge also ruled all of the articles could be defamatory, which had not been disputed by GNM over seven of the pieces.