Actor Christie Whelan Browne has been subjected to a “torrent of abuse” as she fights a defamation case by former co-star Craig McLachlan, and her defence should be made public, a court has heard.
McLachlan is suing Fairfax Media, the ABC and Whelan Browne over articles and reports alleging he bullied and indecently assaulted her and two other female cast members during a 2014 production of The Rocky Horror Show.
Barrister Lyndelle Barnett, representing Whelan Browne and the media companies, on Friday spoke in support of media applications for access to the amended defence filed in court.
She said McLachlan had provided the media with his statement of claim, which contained serious allegations about Whelan Browne and led to her receiving a “torrent of abuse”.
“By doing it the way that he did … it gave those allegations an air of credibility and seriousness,” Ms Barnett said in the NSW Supreme Court.
“He has used, in my submission, the court processes to mount an attack in that way on Ms Whelan Browne in the public domain.”
Ms Barnett said there was a perception Whelan Browne was a “bitter and vengeful liar”.
“The public may well be left with the impression that she’s got no defence and doesn’t stand by her allegations,” the barrister said.
She said Whelan Browne asserted quite strongly that she wasn’t a liar, she stood by her accusations and she wasn’t alone, with the defence containing information about seven other alleged victims.
But Matthew Richardson, acting for McLachlan, said the anonymous allegations contained in the defence may not end up running at trial, and there was a “substantial risk” its public release could prejudice a jury.
He said Whelan Browne’s position, “chapter and verse”, was already in the public domain.
“It is absolutely obvious that there is going to be a contest about her allegations,” Mr Richardson said.
The barrister said the suggestion it was his client’s conduct that led to the torrent of abuse was not borne out.
Justice Lucy McCallum is considering her decision.