Actor Craig McLachlan says he will have “a lot” more to say in the new year after he was found not guilty of assault and indecent assault charges dating back to 2014.
The verdict, for all 13 charges, was delivered during a hearing at the Melbourne Magistrates’ Court on Tuesday morning.
The seven indecent assault charges and six common assault charges related to the time in which McLachlan was a performer in the Rocky Horror Show theatre production.
The complainants in the case were four women.
While delivering her judgment, Magistrate Belinda Wallington said McLachlan had been accused by one of the women, known as CA, of kissing her without consent.
She said another, CB, gave evidence that he had pressed his genitals against her during a “full-bodied hug”.
Another accuser told the court McLachlan had touched her genitals on stage, Magistrate Wallington said.
While Magistrate Wallington said she accepted some of the complainants’ evidence, she said it did not meet the high criminal standards required to prove the charges.
“The four complainants were brave and honest witnesses,” she said.
“I was not persuaded that there was evidence of collusion between the complainants. I was not persuaded that there was evidence of motive or that the complaints were made for reasons for career ambition or for any other such reason.”
During one of the alleged incidents, Magistrate Wallington said McLachlan was accused of inappropriately tickling the inner-thigh of a woman on stage, known as CC.
“I’m unable to exclude the possibility that an egotistical, self-entitled sense of humour led the accused to genuinely think that … CC was consenting to his actions,” she said.
Magistrate Wallington said her full findings were 105 pages long and would be released to the parties and media later on Tuesday.
Speaking outside his lawyer’s offices in Sydney after the verdict was handed down, an emotional McLachlan said he and his partner Vanessa Scammell would have more to say in the new year.
“As you can imagine, we have a lot to say,” he said.
“We’ve maintained a dignified and respectful silence for the past almost three years and put our trust in the law.
“And here we are today.”
He thanked his legal team, including barrister Stuart Littlemore QC, whom he praised for his “extraordinary energy and humanity”.
“But for now, Christmas is upon us, go and enjoy Christmas with your families – we’re going to this year. Stay safe, be kind to each other. We’ll see you in the new year,” he said.
Hearing told any inappropriate contact was ‘accidental’
In November, Mr McLachlan told the court he was “stunned and flabbergasted” when he was informed of the claims against him.
He said any inappropriate touching “could only have been accidental”, and that “horseplay” and “pranks” occurred regularly backstage between members of the cast.
He said he often hugged and kissed fellow performers, a practice he said was “commonplace” in show business.
He denied his words or actions ever had a sexual meaning, connotation or ambition.
McLachlan in defamation case against ABC, Fairfax
Accusations against McLachlan came to light after the publication of a joint ABC-Fairfax investigation.
In a separate court matter, McLachlan launched defamation proceedings against the ABC, Fairfax (now Nine) and an actor after the stories were published.
In early 2019, a stay was ordered on that trial until the completion of criminal proceedings in Victoria.
McLachlan has starred in television, theatre and film productions since the 1980s.
While acting in Neighbours, he won the Gold Logie award as Australia’s most-popular television personality in 1990 and then won an ARIA Music Award in 1991.
In recent years, he was nominated for several Logies for his performances in the ABC series The Doctor Blake Mysteries.