Craig McLachlan drops defamation action mid-trial

Craig McLachlan

Actor Craig McLachlan made the shock decision today to withdraw from the defamation action he brought against several media companies and actor Christie Whelen Browne.

The actor, his family members, and colleagues had given evidence in the defamation lawsuit over the last fortnight, and the court was about to hear from a string of defence witnesses who were due to detail allegation of inappropriate behavior against McLachlan.

McLachlan first performed the lead role in the Rocky Horror Show in the early 1990s, but returned to the part for a successful 2014 production. When it was announced he’d take on the role of Frank-N-Furter for a third time former cast members raised concerns about inappropriate behaviour and alleged sexual assaults.

Producer subsequently announced McLachlan would be leaving the production. The former cast members concerns were aired in a joint report from the ABC’s 7:30 program, and the Nine newspapers. After the reports went to air McLachlan launched defamation proceedings.

The case was delayed after police filed criminal charges against McLachlan  relating to the incidents. In 2020 a judge found that he was not guilty of the charges.

In statement McLachlan said he had taken the decision to terminate his legal action because it was putting his family under strain and affecting his own mental health.

“Today I have decided to end my defamantion case against the ABC and Sydney Morning Herald.” McLachlan said.

“The strain that this case has put on me and, more importantly, my family, has been utterly overwhelming. I cannot continue to place my family under that strain, and my own mental health will not withstand the continuing pressure.

“Ending the case now will finally bring an end to the four years we have endured since the publications were first made, as well as avoiding the need for other witnesses to have to endure the cross-examination process.

Craig McLachlan noted that he had also faced a criminal child which had seen him acquitted of all charges.

“I look forward to restoring my health and spending more time with my family and friends who stood by me through this process.” McLachlan said.

When giving evidence earlier this week McLachlan admitted that he had brought sexual jokes and pranks to the production, including deep-throating bananas, masturbating crew members’ arms, and kissing and grabbing them – but denied the accusations made by several women who worked on the production.

After hearing an application from McLachlan’s legal team Justice Carolyn Simpson told the jury that the case was being discontinued and their services were no longer needed.

Craig McLachlan will now face legal costs that are anticipated to total millions of dollars.

Actor Christie Whelan Browne, who was one of the defendants in the trial alongside the media organisations, released a statement saying her action had only been driven by a desire to protect fellow performers.

“For and a half years ago, I spoke to the media about the way I was treated on The Rocky Horror Show by my work colleague, Craig McLachlan. I was put in this position after a group of women had approached the production company involved, the Gordon Frost Organisation (GFO), and asked them to investigate the behaviour. GFO refused to investigate our claims and threatened to sue us for defamation.

“We came forward for no other reason than to protect the women performing in the 2018 production of the show. So they didn’t have to endure the same behaviour we did in 2014. That was our only intention.

“I was then singled out and sued for defamation. My name was dragged through the mud and my character and own behavior was exaggerated and called into question. I thought this kind of shaming was a thing of the past, but I was wrong.

“The past four and a half years have significantly traumatised me and the other brave women who spoke up at the time and afterwards. I have recieved multiple threats and constant abuse and it continues to this day. I know I haven’t seen the end of it.

“I have lost my feeling of safety in the world, knowing that someone wanted to damage me for speaking the truth. This was the result of simply trying to protect other women from the same behaviour.

“I am please this claim has been withdrawn and look forward to moving on with my life. I hope this is a reminder that women will stand up for themselves and each other, even when threatened by those more powerful.” Whelen Browne said.

In a statement, ABC News Director Justin Stevens said it was a “tremendous result for the women who were brave enough to come forward and tell their stories, particularly Christie Whelan Browne”.

“Eleven women came forward to give evidence against McLachlan,” Stevens said.

“They would not be silenced. It is crucial that defamation laws also not be used to silence the media in reporting accurately and with integrity on matters of public interest.

“The ABC stands by its journalism. It stands by the women who came forward. It stands by Christie Whelan Browne.”

OIP Staff

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