Craig McLachlan launches legal action against ABC, Fairfax and Christie Whelan Browne

Australian television and theatre personality Craig McLachlan has launched legal action against Fairfax Media and the ABC following the media outlets’ reports on his alleged sexual harassment and on-set bullying.

Seven News has tonight reported it was at the scene when McLachlan’s legal representatives served the ABC and Fairfax Media with the legal documents. Seven’s Paul Kadak, who was at the Supreme Court where the statement of claim was lodged, said McLachlan was also taking action against his former co-star in the Rocky Horror Show, Christie Wheelan Browne.

McLachlan will be represented by QC Stuart Littlemore and defamation lawyer Mark O’Brien

Seven had footage of the man who served the media outlets with the papers, however when he was asked “What’s the nature of [the legal action]?” by Seven, he responded “I’m not sure of the nature of the business”.

In his report, Kadak said Seven had obtained McLachlan’s statement of claim, which names the ABC and Fairfax, but “principally targets his former co-star Christie Whelan Browne”. 

Kadak said:

Now in here [the statement of claim], his lawyers have responded to the accusations made against Craig McLachlan and they cite evidence which they say proves Christie Whelan Browne, and I’m quoting here, is ‘a notoriously foul-mouthed person who publicly distributed offensive matter, and had expressed interest in deviant sexual practices’.

The document also cites eight examples including a number of posts from her Instagram account , with references of a sexual nature, as well as references to ‘what was under Craig McLachlan’s boxer shorts’.

Kadak said McLachlan is represented by QC Stuart Littlemore and defamation lawyer Mark O’Brien.

Fairfax and ABC have both declined to comment on the matter.

Allegations against McLachlan came to light after a joint investigation by Fairfax Media and the ABC.

Among the allegations, McLachlan – who has worked on shows including Neighbours, Home and Away and more recently The Wrong Girl on Ten – was described as “calculated” and “manipulative” with “sinister, predatory behaviour”. He was accused of pressing against co-stars on stage, exposing himself, touching their genitals and groping their breasts.

Whelan Browne, along with other cast members from the 2014 production Erika Heynatz and Angela Scundi, were interviewed as part of the investigation. Heynatz and Scundi have taken their allegations to the Victoria police.

At the time, McLachlan responded to the allegations saying they were “baseless” and “all made up”, suggesting the women could be motivated by money.

Following the ABC’s and Fairfax’s investigation, McLachlan was ousted from the Rocky Horror Show, in which he was once again playing Frank N Furter.

The production company behind the show, The Gordon Frost Organisation, initially denied claims it had ignored the women’s complaints about McLachlan at the time of the alleged behaviour, however managing director John Frost subsequently apologised to the women.

“Anyone should feel comfortable reporting issues of sexual harassment, discrimination and bullying, and the fact that these three women did not feel as though they could report these issues in 2014 is concerning and distressing to me, and I sincerely apologise to them for this,” he said in January.

“Our company is responsible for sometimes hundreds of people across many productions at any given time, and we do have very strict policies and procedures in place when it comes to reporting of allegations of this nature. We had those same policies in place in 2014.

“Over the past few days we have spent time reinforcing those policies and assuring all employees across all productions that any reported incident will be treated seriously and promptly with sensitivity to all parties concerned.”

Frost also noted that although Heynatz, Whelan Browne and Scundi did not officially make a complaint at the time, he has “no reason to disbelieve anyone who says they spoke to one of our managers in 2014.”

Production on the Doctor Blake Mysteries – in which McLachlan plays the title character – has also been suspended.

The show originally screened on the ABC, but it was axed by the national broadcaster in March last year. The ABC said the time was right to end the program.

The final episode of its five-season run in November had 891,000 metro viewers and 1.339m viewers across the nation, according to OzTAM’s overnight preliminary metro ratings.

Six months after the ABC announced it had axed the Doctor Blake Mysteries, Seven ‘saved’ the program.

The show, however, has not yet made it back on air.

McLachlan also starred as a popular, but sleazy, breakfast television host in Ten’s The Wrong Girl which has thus far run for two seasons. It is not yet clear if The Wrong Girl – which also starred Whelan Browne – will be commissioned for a third season.

McLachlan was the second high-profile local media personality to be accused of indecent behaviour in two months after veteran journalist Tracey Spicer launched an investigation into the Australian media industry. In late November, Don Burke was accused of sexually harassing a string of female colleagues throughout his career.

Craig McLachlan timeline: 

10 April: Craig McLachlan cast in new ABC series

3 March: ABC axes its most popular series, The Doctor Blake Mysteries
27 October: Seven saves The Doctor Blake Mysteries from ABC axe
13 November: Doctor Blake says goodbye to the ABC with rare ratings win

8 January: Doctor Blake Mysteries star Craig McLachlan accused of indecent assault and sexual harassment
8 January: Seven seeks urgent update from Doctor Blake producers following Craig McLachlan allegations
8 January: Craig McLachlan ousted from The Rocky Horror Show
9 January: Nine’s A Current Affair coverage of McLachlan allegations outrates ABC’s 7:30 investigation
9 January: Production on next Doctor Blake Mysteries series suspended after Craig McLachlan allegations
11 January: Rocky Horror Show production company MD apologises to McLachlan’s accusers
13 January: Doctor Blake future in doubt after new Craig McLachlan allegations


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