Former Neighbours star Craig McLachlan has been found not guilty of indecently assaulting actors during the running of the hit musical Rocky Horror Show.
McLachlan had maintained his alleged sexual offending while working on the production was no more inappropriate than a cricketer giving a teammate a pat on the bum.
In a 105 page decision, Melbourne Magistrate Belinda Wallington found McLachlan not guilty of all charges.
Craig McLachlan as he appeared in the hit soap opera Neighbours back in his glory days. McLachlan has been accused of indecent assault during a production of the hit musical Rocky Horror Show. He strongly denied the allegations
Craig McLachlan in action during production of the Rocky Horror Show musical
Craig McLachlan’s barrister Stuart Littlemore, QC described his client’s alleged victims as behaving like sluts (right)
The 55 year old looked relieved from the chambers of his Sydney barrister where he tuned in for the verdict.
He had endured months of scrutiny which saw him and his partner Vanessa Scammel forced to make their way through media packs outside of a Melbourne court.
In handing down her decision, Ms Wallington made the unusual decision to praise each of the alleged victims.
They had endured fierce criticism throughout the trial, with one young mum forced to give evidence to the court on four separate occasions.
The hearing, which dragged on for months, saw the women’s credibility viciously attacked by McLachlan’s barrister Stuart Littlemore, QC.
Among a host of attacks on the women, the court heard Mr Littlemore had described the alleged victims’ behaviour as ‘slutty’.
The reference was made specifically to photographs submitted to the court by Mr Littlemore in an attempt to discredit their evidence during the trial.
‘I want it noted the following: The four complainants were brave and honest witnesses. I was not persuaded that there was evidence of collusion between the complainants,’ Ms Wallington said on Tuesday.
‘I was not persuaded that there was evidence of motive, or that the complaints were made for reason of career ambition or any other such reason.’
During the trial, Mr Littlemore saved particular scorn for a woman who had claimed McLachlan touched her vagina during a scene.
‘(The victim) brought to the court what she clearly thought of as the skilful application of the craft of acting,’ he said.
Mr Littlemore proceeded to highlight the woman’s hair, clothing, face and voice while she gave evidence to the court.
Ms Wallington took a swipe at Mr Littlemore for the way he carried out the trial.
‘I was not assisted by the lines of questioning by the defence that called into question the reputations of the complainants, sexual or otherwise, the poses they struck in photographs on social media or their appearance or what they were wearing,’ she said.
Ms Wallington said she was forced to make her decision on the case based on the laws at they time they were committed.
Stuart Littlemore QC is an Australian barrister and former journalist and television presenter
Craig McLachlan has been a much loved Australian actor for decades. It remains unclear where his career will go from here
‘The laws have since changed, but do not apply retroactively. The law on consent has been replaced with a more objective test – was the accused’s belief reasonable. Were the current law applicable, it is possible that the result may have been different.’
As the contested hearing at the Melbourne Magistrates’ Court drew to an end last month, it was heard McLachlan’s defence had submitted 160 pages denying the allegations.
The Gold Logie award winning actor had faced multiple charges, including five counts of indecent assault, one of attempted indecent assault and others of assault, involving four women who were part of a production of the Rocky Horror Show.
The beloved actor is best known for appearing in the soap operas Neighbours, Home and Away and the BBC spy drama Bugs.
He has portrayed the title character in The Doctor Black Mysteries, for which he was nominated for the Most Popular Actor Logie – a title he has previously won three times.
Crown prosecutor Matt Fisher had delivered a scathing assessment of McLachlan’s defence to Ms Wallington.
Police had alleged McLachlan either indecently assaulted or assaulted four complainants in Melbourne between April 26, 2014 and July 13, 2014.
The allegations became public after one of his alleged victims went public following the worldwide scandal involving disgraced film producer Harvey Weinstein.
McLachlan immediately filed defamation action against The Age, The Sydney Morning Herald, the ABC and an actress over the news reports last year.
The defamation trial had been postponed until the criminal proceedings in Melbourne finished and is now expected to proceed.
It remains unclear whether McLachlan will be able to claw his way back into the hearts of Australians following the airing of months of lewd and graphic behaviour in court.
Among the most serious of the charges alleged against McLachlan was an allegation he sexually assaulted an actress on stage during live production of the popular musical.
In opening the case against McLachlan last year, Mr Fisher said some of the allegations related to a bedroom scene in which McLachlan was meant to be simulating a sex act while out of sight from the audience.
‘It is alleged the accused went beyond the role he was directed to perform,’ Mr Fisher said.
It was alleged McLachlan kissed one woman actor’s neck, stomach and buttocks during a scene on more than 20 occasions.
The Australian actor arrives at his barrister’s Sydney office last month. He had been giving evidence via videolink
The Australian actor arrives at Melbourne Magistrates’ Court with his partner Vanessa Scammell last year
McLachlan Twisted Toilet Capers
The court heard McLachlan sent videos to a woman he was accused of sexually assaulting of himself taking a bowel movement.
In videos played to the Melbourne Magistrates Court, the former Neighbours star was shown sitting on the toilet, rolling around on the bathroom floor and simulating masturbation.
The videos had been sent to a co-star McLachlan had earlier told the court was ‘the most vulgar person he had ever met’.
One of the videos, sent in 2017 by McLachlan while he was doing a show with the woman, showed him grimacing as he appeared to defecate in a toilet.
Another video showed him rolling about on the bathroom floor with his pants down with a similar look of pain and disgust.
A third video saw a barefooted McLachlan touching himself over his board shorts.
The alleged victim would go onto make a formal complaint about McLachlan’s behaviour in the Rocky Horror show the following year.
McLachlan maintained he did not regard the videos he sent as vulgar.
‘Not out of context of our relationship given the jokes at the time. No,’ he said.
McLachlan was also accused of pushing his groin into the stomach area of another woman while he was wearing black boxer shorts with a tiger on the crotch, while his penis was partially erect.
He allegedly kissed the same woman during a show, without being directed to do so, forcing his tongue into her mouth.
McLachlan had also been accused of tickling another woman’s foot and reaching up towards her groin, while he was out of sight of the audience.
The court heard each of the alleged victims had come forward as they were afraid McLachlan might offend against others in a similar fashion during another production of the show.
Mr Fisher refuted McLachlan’s claims that the women had been dishonest or lied to the court.
Instead, the experienced prosecutor claimed it had been McLachlan who had used his position in the Australian show business to assault and intimidate the women.
‘Things like, his position, he will “end them”, “You don’t know who you’re dealing with”. Those sorts of comments in my submission are indicative of the power imbalance that existed between the complainants and the accused man,’ Mr Fisher said.
The court heard none of the alleged victims had ever spoken to each other about their experiences while appearing in the 2014 production of the Rocky Horror Show.
‘Throughout (Mr Littlemore’s) submissions, there are many inflammatory words that he used in those submissions,’ Mr Fisher said.
Craig McLachlan went onto find further fame in The Doctor Blake Mysteries. He is accused of sexually assaulting several of his colleagues during the 2014 running of the Rocky Horror Show. He denied any wrongdoing
Craig McLachlan (centre) with Greg Benson and Danni Minogue during the screening of Home and Away. McLachlan has been portrayed as a lovable larrikin throughout his career and strongly challenged allegations he was a sex predator
But Mr Littlemore refused to back down.
‘Well your honour, we are quite firm,’ he said. ‘That was an attempt to hoodwink the court. And it would be regrettable if it succeeded.’
He continued to label the women’s behaviour at the time as ‘slutty’.
‘Your honour, I’m going to call a spade a spade. These photographs do depict people in slutty poses and deliberately so and it’s not to be sanitised, it’s not to be diluted – the fact is this is part of the culture of permissiveness,’ Mr Littlemore said.
The Tale ‘Gobbler’ and ‘Blumpkin’
McLachlan’s alleged victim had referred to the pair as ‘Gobbler’ and ‘Blumpkin’ while they worked together in 2017.
In a text exchange between the pair that year, the woman signed off using the raunchy names, the court heard.
‘I’m thinking of you. If you need anything I’m here in Melb for a couple of weeks. Look after each other. Until G&B reunite. Kisses,’ the text read.
Mr Littlemore asked McLachlan what G&B had meant.
‘It was rude, certainly – the Blumpkin,’ McLachlan said of the name.
The term refers to a sex act being performed while on a toilet.
McLachlan said it had been a ‘dirty joke’ between the pair.
On Thursday, the court heard McLachlan had sent her a series of text messages in which the Crown implied were themselves vulgar.
‘What about this phrase,’ Mr Fisher put to McLachlan. ‘A box like a bald British bulldog licking its own piss off a thistle. Is that vulgar to you?’
McLachlan responded: ‘You’d have to ask her because that’s the first time I heard it was when (the woman) said it in my dressing room.’
Craig McLachlan’s barrister Stuart Littlemore has labelled a woman who posed in a raunchy photograph as behaving ‘slutty’
Mr Littlemore described a photograph of one of the women that depicted her naked from below the waste with a caption declaring: ‘This is my black box’ – her genitals covered by a black square.
‘Is that not slutty?’ he asked.
So ‘inflammatory’ were Mr Littlemore’s written submissions that Mr Fisher attempted to have them excluded from release to the public.
Mr Fisher further condemned Mr Littlemore for his description of one of the victim’s at court, declaring his views belonged in the ‘dark ages’.
The well regarded prosecutor continued to take aim at Mr Littlemore’s conduct during the trial, calling out a question he asked to one of the women where he asked: ‘Would you rather be famous as an actress or a victim?’
McLachlan has applied for the police to pay his costs.