An actress who accused Craig McLachlan of sexually assaulting her during theatre performances has raged against his return to television.
McLachlan was charged with assault and indecent assault over complaints from female co-stars in a 2014 stage production of the Rocky Horror Picture Show.
He was acquitted by a magistrate of all charges in December 2020 but has not held an acting gig since the accusations came to light in 2018.
The former neighbours star was on Sunday revealed to be a contestant on the next season of SAS Australia, where celebrities are put through grueling tests by ex-special forces.
Christie Whelan Browne, one of the four women who accused him of indecent assault, was furious McLachlan was being welcomed back to the spotlight.
Craig McLachlan was charged with assault and indecent assault over complaints from female co-stars in a 2014 stage production of the Rocky Horror Picture Show
Christie Whelan, one of the four women who accused him of indecent assault, was furious McLachlan was being welcomed back to the spotlight
‘How do we feel about someone who was charged on multiple sexual assault charges being put back on TV and being referred to simply as a “controversial figure”?’ she wrote on Twitter on Monday.
‘I also saw a post saying he was the “winner” of that case. But if you bother to read the judgement… the judge WHO HEARD THE EVIDENCE, believed it happened.
‘I am so f**king sick of this s**t.’
McLachlan was referred to as a ‘controversial former actor’ in one article, and the trial barely mentioned in the first report of his SAS casting – and even then sympathetically.
The case Whelan mentioned was tried under old consent laws because the alleged crimes occurred before they had changed.
Victorian laws were updated in 2015 to make a defendant guilty of sexual or indecent assault if their incorrect belief they had consent was ‘unreasonable’.
McLachlan by contrast merely had to prove he believed he had consent.
Magistrate Belinda Wallington said in her 105-page judgement that she found the incidents to have happened, but that McLachlan believed he had consent.
‘I can not dismiss the reasonable possibility that in his egocentric state of mind, amongst some amount of adulation from sections of the cast and management, in combination with a lack of checks and balances on his lewd behaviour, that he was not aware of [the complainant’s] lack of consent,’ she said.
Of another charge she said: ‘I am unable to exclude the possibility that an egotistical, self-entitled sense of humour led the accused to genuinely think that [the complainant] was consenting to his actions.’
McLachlan was acquitted by a magistrate of all charges in December 2020 but has not held an acting gig since the accusations came to light in 2018
Craig McLachlan with his longtime girlfriend Vanessa Scammell (left) and barrister Stuart Littlemore, QC (right) at his trial in 2020
Magistrate Wallington on several occasions said she found the complainants to be ‘credible’ and that she ‘accepted [their] evidence in full’.
She also pointed out that her judgement would likely be different had the case been tried under the post-2015 laws.
Referring to a claim that McLachlan ‘vampire kissed’ a co-star on the neck on stage without consent, she said: ‘An objective view of his conduct would give rise to a strong inference that he did not reasonably believe that [the complainant] was consenting.
‘It seems counterintuitive to find an accused not criminally liable for such sexual harassment and, as I said, this is no longer the law.’
Magistrate Wallington criticised the old law for ‘rewarding the sex offender for their self-absorption’ and ‘deluded honesty’.
Whelan accused McLachlan of indecent assault when she ‘felt a finger trace about 2cm down her labia’ during a scene when she was partially hidden by a sheet.
The sex scene involved McLachlan’s character Dr Frank-N-Furter disappearing under a bedsheet to simulate sex acts on Janet, whose bottom half was also under the sheet.
‘One night when he was down in the bed… he traced the outline of my vagina with his finger and I slapped his hand away,’ Whelan told the 7.30 report in 2018.
‘The scene stopped when he went down and the rest was up to me to perform. That wasn’t a character choice, that was him just being completely inappropriate.’
Magistrate Wallington said it couldn’t be proven beyond reasonable doubt that McLachlan believed he had consent until his hand was slapped away.
McLachlan sued Whelan for defamation, along with several media outlets, after his acquittal, but dropped the $3million lawsuit last year.
Whelan said she was so terrified by rape and death threats after she went public that she moved house and slept with a knife under her bed.
The actress has frequently criticised McLachlan, and last month lodged a complaint with the Australian Human Rights Commission.
She claimed the show’s producer, the Gordon Frost Organisation, breached the Sex Discrimination Act.
Her complaint alleged it breach the act by ‘engaging in sex discrimination, exposing me to unsafe conditions of work, breaching its duty of care towards me, failing to meet work, health and safety standards, and permitting another employee to engage in sex discrimination and sexual harassment’.
McLachlan is contractually forbidden to talk about his appearance on SAS Australia, but his longtime girlfriend Vanessa Scammell said he barely made it to filming.
After emergency abdominal surgery late last year, McLachlan had to get himself back in good enough shape to pass rigourous fitness tests to participate.
Ms Scammell repeated her boyfriend’s insistence that he did nothing wrong, and said the lengthy legal proceedings would help his mental preparation.
‘He believes that nothing could be as horrific as having survived the past five years of legal battles and court processes he has had to endure, and that the mental strength and fortitude will hold him in good stead,’ she told the Daily Telegraph.
‘There is no way to adequately describe how profoundly difficult it was to survive those days calmly without emotion, maintaining dignity and respectfully trusting the process.’
Ms Scammell said it was ‘deeply disappointing and frankly very concerning’ that the industry did not give him a second chance despite ‘a full acquittal in a criminal court’.
McLachlan flew out of Sydney in the past week to film the show overseas.
Read more at DailyMail.co.uk