Actor Craig McLachlan has been accused in court of making claims that “border on victim blaming” in his defamation action against the ABC, Fairfax Media and actress Christie Whelan Browne on Friday.
The objection came at the first hearing of McLachlan’s claim he was defamed by articles and reports alleging sexual misconduct, harassment, bullying and indecent assault against three female cast members during a 2014 production of The Rocky Horror Show.
As the hearing commenced, Justice Lucy McCallum said: “There is no issue at today’s hearing concerning the truth of the allegations, it’s concerned with the form of the [McLachlan’s] claim and whether that form will stand.”
McLachlan’s statement of claim made a series of allegations against Whelan Browne, including that she was “notoriously foul mouthed” and –had an interest in “deviant sexual practices”.
Among the allegations against Whelan Browne in the statement of claim, is that she poked McLachlan between the buttocks with her finger on “numerous occasions” and gave him “wedgies”.
McLachlan’s statement of claim also alleges Whelan Brown used the word c––t to refer to people and posted sexually suggestive material on her Instagram account.
Whelan Browne has not yet filed her defence to the claims made by McLachlan.
Barrister for the defendants Lyndelle Barnett told the court: “The fact that someone may use the c-word does not make that person a person who is open to indecent assault.”
“That borders on victim blaming,” she said.
Justice McCallum took up the theme with McLachlan’s barrister Stuart Littlemore QC.
“What does it have to do with the allegation of indecent assault, that she uses the word c––t?” Justice McCallum asked Mr Littlemore.
“Because the first defendant is a hypocrite,” Mr Littlemore replied.
However, Mr Littlemore then agreed with Justice McCallum that part of the claim may need revision.
The defendants have also complained the media got hold of McLachlan’s statement of claim before they did.
The court was shown footage of a Channel 7 news report outlining McLachlan’s statement of claim, which was aired the day before the document was served on Whelan Brown.
“The statement of claim has been furnished to [Channel 7] before any of the defendants so the cameras could be there when [it] was served,” Ms Barnett told the court.
“It was totally taken out of our hands – the first [Whelan Browne] knew was when it was splashed throughout the media.”