Actor Craig McLachlan has applied to drop his defamation proceedings against the ABC, The Sydney Morning Herald, and performer Christie Whelan Browne. The news comes on the day that the defence was due to begin making its case.
“We’ve just been given notice that Mr McLachlan is applying for leave to discontinue the proceedings,” The barrister for the media outlets, Michael Hodge QC said on Friday.
McLachlan was in the process of suing for defamation over an investigation that alleged he indecently assaulted and sexually harassed female performers during the 2014 stage production of The Rocky Horror Show, where he starred as Dr Frank-N-Furter.
Allegations included that Craig McLachlan would kiss and touch performers’ breasts while the view of the audience was obstructed by sheets or other props.
McLachlan denied all of the claims made against him, saying that the investigation caused his acting career to end.
During his turn to give evidence, McLachlan told the court that the cast of The Rocky Horror Show used to “clown around” and were “physically and verbally affectionate towards each other”. In his opening statement, McLachlan’s barrister Kieran Smark SC told the jury that “The way that actors deal with each other and with the stresses of performing is somewhat different to other workplaces.”
Michael Hodge QC had told the jury that there were 11 women who worked with McLachlan throughout his career and across multiple productions that would take to the stand to testify about his inappropriate behaviour.
In a statement, Tory Maguire, executive editor of The Sydney Morning Herald and The Age said: “The Sydney Morning Herald and the ABC published their investigation on Craig McLachlan during the height of the #MeToo movement. McLachlan’s claim against one of his victims, Christie Whelan Browne, and the media outlets, utilising Australia’s defamation laws, has had a chilling effect on victims’ willingness to tell their stories about other abusers, and the media’s ability to report on these serious allegations. The victims, the media and the public’s right to know has been damaged by this case, more than any costs order can ever repay. This result today is vindication of both McLachlan’s victims and our public interest journalism.”