Craig McLachlan’s tell-all interview with Channel 7, the actor’s first major media appearance since he was publicly accused of sexually harassing several co-stars, was met with significant derision on Sunday night.
Viewers offered little sympathy for the actor’s plight as he told of facing charges and ultimately being acquitted of several indecent assault charges last year, though an Instagram post thanking his fans garnered more than 3000 likes.
A defamation action against Nine Newspapers and the ABC now looms, with eight women alleging sexual harassment in the national broadcaster’s defence.
Mr McLachlan, formerly known for his work on the Doctor Blake Mysteries, Home And Away and Neighbours, said he had contemplated suicide and blasted the #MeToo movement for the “absolute demolition” of his life.
In the Melbourne Magistrate’s Court prosecutors alleged Mr McLachlan indecently assaulted four female co-stars in a 2014 musical production of the Rocky Horror Show.
Mr McLachlan was last year acquitted of all charges by Magistrate Belinda Wallington.
The magistrate said she found the women to be “brave and honest” witnesses.
The women, referred to as CA, CB, CC and CD, cannot be named as the law prevents identifying the alleged victims of sexual offences in criminal matters.
THE PROSECUTION CASE
Mr McLachlan faced a verdict on 13 charges: seven of indecent assault, five alternative charges of assault and one assault charge.
The court heard the following allegations about McLachlan:
Approaching CA when she was alone in her dressing room and telling her he couldn’t stop thinking about her before grabbing her by the face and kissing her.
CA told the court Mr McLachlan later said he was embarrassed and an “old fool”, words he denied saying. Magistrate Wallington found the kiss was not indecent and she doubted if Mr McLachlan was aware CA was not consenting at the time he kissed her. He was acquitted of indecent assault and an alternative charge of assault.
Straddling CA on the couch in the green room, kissing her neck and stopping after he asked “Too much? Did I linger too long?” and she replied “Yes”.
Mr McLachlan said he could not recall this and something like it might have happened, though not as CA described. Magistrate Wallington found the 2014 test for indecent assault allowed an accused to hold an “unreasonable” belief the complainant was consenting, and that Mr McLachlan’s “egocentric” state of mind may have led him to believe CA wanted to be straddled and kissed. This was consistent with the fact he stopped once she confirmed it was “too much”, the magistrate said. He was acquitted of two charges of indecent assault and an alternative charge of assault.
Hugging CB at the end of a line of cast members.
“On CB’s evidence it seems she was the last in line for the dreaded hug. Everyone else having consented, the pressure was on,” the magistrate wrote. “He said ‘CB, may I hug you?’ She had to say yes.” CB said she could feel his partially erect penis as he pressed his pelvis into her. Mr McLachlan denied every pushing his genitals into her and said he would have remembered if she objected to a hug. Magistrate Wallington found her account had changed over time, something that undermined her reliability. He was acquitted of indecent assault and also of an alternative charge of assault as she had consented to the hug.
Kissing CB on stage, what she described as a “tongue kiss”, as they acted out a scene.
Mr McLachlan said the kiss was rehearsed and a tongue kiss would be impossible with the timing of the song. Magistrate Wallington said Mr McLachlan “probably did” tongue kiss CB but was not satisfied beyond a reasonable doubt and therefore could not find it was indecent. He was acquitted of indecent assault and an alternative charge of assault.
Tickling CC from her foot to her inner thigh as she was on a platform, the top half of her torso visible to the audience.
Mr McLachlan denied doing this entirely. Magistrate Wallington accepted CC’s evidence about what happened, but noted Mr McLachlan played tricks on the cast and thought touching her like this was “funny”. Again she applied the 2014 test and found it was possible Mr McLachlan’s “egotistical, self-entitled” sense of humour might have meant he genuinely thought she was consenting. He was acquitted of indecent assault and an alternative charge of assault.
Tracing the line of CD’s vagina with his finger while they were in bed on stage before she swatted his hand away.
Mr McLachlan said he did not have time to touch CD’s vagina in this scene. Magistrate Wallington said prior to this incident Mr McLachlan had habitually joked about CD’s vagina. He either knew she was not consenting, or he was playing “tricks” on her to get her to laugh for the purposes of playing the fun bed scene. The fact he stopped when she pushed his hand away meant it was possible he did not become aware until that point she was not consenting. He was acquitted of indecent assault.
Grabbing CD’s face by the jaw and throwing her face to one side.
Mr McLachlan said this would not have been possible. Magistrate Wallington found on balance the evidence suggested Mr McLachlan did “deal roughly” with CD. But, she said. it was possible his actions were accidental and not intentional based on his evidence that he was upset over other problems in the performance that night. He was acquitted of assault.
WHAT THE JUDGE SAID
After finding Mr McLachlan not guilty on all charges, Magistrate Wallington stressed she had to apply the law at the time of the alleged offences.
She said the old law was “rightly criticised for rewarding a sex offender for their self absorption” who is only able to see his own desires and “interprets a woman’s reactions as invariably congruent with his own”.
“Were the current law applicable, it is possible that the result may be different,” she said.
The magistrate also described the four women as “brave and honest witnesses”.
She was unconvinced that — as suggested at trial — they came forward with the aim of furthering their careers.
Mr McLachlan is pursuing his defamation case, which was placed on hold while he faced criminal charges.
He alleges he was defamed by reporting that falsely suggested he was guilty of sexual crimes.
The ABC’s defence, released publicly this week, contains allegations of sexual harassment that go beyond Mr McLachlan’s Rocky Horror Show co-stars.
Actors Tamzen Hayes and Anna Samson both worked with Mr McLachlan on the Doctor Blake Mysteries. According to the defence, Ms Hayes alleges he kissed her with an open mouth as she left the set after three days of filming. Ms Samson alleges he put his hand on her buttocks as they filmed a scene on her one day on set.
The documents also contains allegations he groped Rocky Horror sound technician Sophie Norfolk and engaged in “sexual innuendo” as then 22-year-old Josie Steele, working as a runner on the show City Homicide, drove him to the airport in 2008.