Actor Craig McLachlan has launched legal proceedings against Fairfax Media, the ABC and actor Christie Whelan Browne, following the media organisations’ joint investigation into allegations of indecent assault and sexual harassment against McLachlan.
Victoria Police is investigating allegations of sexual misconduct by McLachlan while he was performing in the 2014 tour of the Rocky Horror Show, following an investigation by Fairfax Media and the ABC. Three women who worked on the production, Christie Whelan Browne, Erika Heynatz and Angela Scundi, came forward in January with detailed allegations of abuse on and off stage. Two of the women have made reports to the police and the Gordon Frost Organisation, who produced the tour, has since come under fire for its handling of the allegations.
McLachlan, 52, has denied the allegations, describing them as “baseless” and has now engaged barrister Stuart Littlemore QC, lodging a Statement of Claim in the NSW Supreme Court, naming the ABC and Fairfax, but also targeting Whelan Browne.
Whelan Browne accused McLachlan of touching her without her consent while McLachlan was concealed from the audience in a bed on stage. “This one night when he turned me around, he pulled my undies up so my bum cheek was out and he was kissing my bum. There is nothing I can do. I am stuck. There’s 2000 people watching me and can’t see him,” she told Fairfax. In another incident she alleged that when he was concealed by the bed “he traced the outline of my vagina with his finger”. McLachlan has since left the current tour of Rocky Horror Show, to be replaced by Adam Rennie.
In McLachlan’s Statement of Claim he alleges that Whelan Browne is “herself a notoriously foul-mouthed person who publicly distributed offensive matter, and had expressed interest in deviant sexual practices.”
“The plaintiff has been greatly injured in his business, personal and professional reputation and has been and will be brought into public disrepute, odium, ridicule and contempt,” the claim says. A court date has been set for March 16.
The news of McLachlan’s legal action comes as producers of the Doctor Blake Mysteries cleared McLachlan of claims he sexually harassed on the set of the show, including that he told a male crew member who offered to get him a drink, “I’d prefer a hand job.” Production company December Media hired workplace consultant Fiona Bigelli to investigate the claims. Following Bigelli’s investigation, December Media has released a statement saying, “there were no findings of sexual harassment, sexual misconduct or workplace bullying by Craig McLachlan or any other person on Doctor Blake.”
“People highlighted the fact that Doctor Blake’s workplace culture has consisted of, amongst other things, a workplace humour which has been described by many as sexual, lewd, bawdy, ‘Benny-Hill-esque’ and crude and that some of the behaviour relating to this humour may be offensive to people regardless of the fact no formal complaints have been received,” the statement said.
“While December Media has all appropriate policies and procedures in place with respect to workplace behaviour, the report does recommend some improvements to be in line with world-best practice.”
Since the ABC and Fairfax first published allegations against McLachlan, the ABC reported that two other women have come forward with allegations of sexual misconduct against the actor unrelated to Rocky Horror Show, including a 22-year-old driver on a TV production who said he made inappropriate comments and a 25-year-old salon worker who said he kissed her without her consent.