Award-winning actor Craig McLachlan was supported by his partner as he faced court in Melbourne and won a bid to fight his indecent assault case before a magistrate rather than face a jury trial.
The bearded, sandy-haired actor looked relaxed as he sat in Melbourne Magistrates Court on Friday in a navy suit and pink tie, at times holding hands with his opera-conductor partner Vanessa Scammell.
Prosecutors dropped one of the charges and said 30 witnesses were expected to testify.
It was the first time McLachlan, 53, had appeared in court in person over the case, which is believed to stem from allegations raised by acting colleagues.
His legal team applied to have the case heard summarily, and prosecutors did not argue.
The application was granted, meaning McLachlan’s contested hearing will be heard by a magistrate, rather than going to a higher court where greater penalties are available.
“They are offences that are commonly dealt with in this jurisdiction,” magistrate Joanne Metcalfe said.
“There is clearly adequate sentencing capacity in this jurisdiction.”
McLachlan was told to stand as his case was adjourned to June 13.
“Thank you, your honour,” he said.
The former Neighbours star did not not comment as he left court with Ms Scammell, and the pair were whisked into a waiting black Mercedes.
McLachlan faces seven counts of indecent assault, after one was dropped on Friday, along with one count of assault and one attempted indecent assault.
The number of different complainants in the case has been withheld from media by the court.
Prosecutors did not read a summary of the case, which they handed to the magistrate and has not been made available to the media.
McLachlan’s alleged offending took place between late-April and mid-July in 2014 in Melbourne, charge sheets show.
Around that time, he was starring in the Rocky Horror Show stage production in Melbourne, playing Dr Frank-N-Furter.
McLachlan became a household name for his roles on Australian soap operas Neighbours and Home and Away, and more recently he has led the Ballarat-filmed TV series Doctor Blake Mysteries.
He has vowed to fight the indecent assault allegations.
When the charges were laid in January, a spokesman said: “Craig is innocent of these charges, which will be vigorously defended”.
McLachlan previously faced accusations of misconduct by fellow cast members in the Rocky Horror Show.
He strongly denied them and launched defamation action in NSW last year, suing Fairfax Media, the ABC and a former co-star.
He is seeking $6.5 million in special damages in the defamation case, which has been delayed until after his criminal proceedings in Victoria.
McLachlan, who is from Sydney, has been excused from attending when his case returns to court.