An actress who accused Craig McLachlan of sexually assaulting her during theater shows is furious at his return to television.
McLachlan was charged with assault and assault over complaints from female co-stars in a 2014 stage production of the Rocky Horror Picture Show.
He was cleared of all charges by a magistrate in December 2020, but has not made an acting appearance since the allegations came to light in 2018.
The former Neighbors star was revealed on Sunday as a contestant on the next season of SAS Australia, where celebrities undergo grueling tests at the hands of ex-special forces.
Christie Whelan Browne, one of four women who accused him of indecent assault, was furious that McLachlan was welcomed back into the spotlight.
Craig McLachlan was charged with sexual assault and indecent assault following complaints from female co-stars in a 2014 stage production of the Rocky Horror Picture Show
Christie Whelan, one of four women who accused him of indecent assault, was furious that McLachlan was welcomed back into the spotlight
“How do we feel about someone charged with multiple assault charges being brought back on TV and simply referred to as a ‘controversial figure’?” she wrote on Twitter on Monday.
“I also saw a post that he was the ‘winner’ of that case. But if you bother to read the verdict… the judge who heard the evidence believed it happened.
“I’m so fucking sick of this shit.”
McLachlan was called a “controversial former actor” in one article, and the process was barely mentioned in the initial report of his SAS casting — and sympathetic even then.
The case Whelan mentioned was tried under old consent laws because the alleged crimes happened before they were changed.
Victorian laws were updated in 2015 to make a defendant guilty of sexual or indecent assault if their erroneous belief that they had consent was ‘unreasonable’.
McLachlan, on the other hand, only had to prove that he thought he had permission.
Magistrate Belinda Wallington said in her 105-page verdict that she believed the incidents had occurred but that McLachlan believed he had authorization.
“I can’t rule out the reasonable possibility that in his self-centered state of mind, amid some admiration from parts of the cast and management, coupled with a lack of checks and balances on his lewd behavior, he was oblivious (the lack of permission from the prosecution,” she said.
On another charge, she said, “I cannot rule out the possibility that a selfish, self-professed sense of humor led the defendant to honestly think that (the complainant) consented to his actions.”
McLachlan was cleared of all charges by a magistrate in December 2020, but has not made an acting appearance since the allegations 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 said on several occasions that she found the complainants “credible” and that she “fully accepted (their) evidence.”
She also pointed out that her verdict would likely have been different if the case had been tried under post-2015 laws.
Referring to an allegation that McLachlan kissed a co-star on stage without consent on the neck, she said, “An objective view of his behavior would lead to the strong conclusion that he did not reasonably believe that (the complainant) was consenting.”
“It seems counterintuitive not to hold a suspect criminally liable for such sexual harassment and, as I said, this is no longer the law.”
Magistrate Wallington criticized the old law for “rewarding the sex offender for their self-righteousness” and “misguided honesty.”
Whelan accused McLachlan of indecent assault when she “felt a finger about an inch past her labia” during a scene where she was partially hidden by a sheet.
The sex scene involved McLachlan’s character Dr. Frank-N-Furter who disappeared under a sheet to simulate sexual acts with Janet, whose lower half was also under the sheet.
“Welan was lying in bed one night … he traced the outline of my vagina with his finger and I knocked his hand away,” Whelan told the 7:30 am report in 2018.
“The scene stopped when he went down and the rest was for me to perform. That wasn’t a character choice, that was just that he was completely inappropriate.”
Magistrate Wallington said it could not be proven beyond a reasonable doubt that McLachlan thought he had clearance until his hand was struck away.
McLachlan sued Whelan for defamation, along with several media outlets, following his acquittal, but dropped the $3 million lawsuit last year.
Whelan said she was so afraid of rape and death threats after coming out that she moved out and slept with a knife under her bed.
The actress has regularly criticized McLachlan and last month filed a complaint with the Australian Human Rights Commission.
She alleged that the show’s producer, the Gordon Frost Organization, had violated the Sex Discrimination Act.
Her complaint alleged that it had violated the law by “engaging in sex discrimination, exposing me to unsafe working conditions, violating her duty of care to me, failing to meet employment, health and safety standards, and allowing another employee to engage in sex discrimination and sexual harassment’.
McLachlan is contractually forbidden from talking about his appearance on SAS Australia, but his longtime girlfriend Vanessa Scammell said he was barely filming.
After emergency lower abdominal surgery late last year, McLachlan had to get himself back into shape to pass tough fitness tests to compete.
Ms Scammell echoed her boyfriend’s insistence that he had done nothing wrong, saying the lengthy legal process would help his mental preparation.
“He believes nothing could be more horrifying than surviving the past five years of legal battles and lawsuits he’s had to endure, and that the mental strength and determination will serve him well,” she told the Daily Telegraph.
“There’s no way to adequately describe how incredibly difficult it was to get through those days calmly and without emotion, while maintaining dignity and respectful trust in the process.”
Ms Scammell said it was ‘deeply disappointing and frankly very worrying’ that the industry was not giving him a second chance despite ‘a full acquittal in criminal court’.
McLachlan flew out of Sydney this past week to film the show abroad.