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Old allegations added to McLachlan case

A judge has allowed allegations that Craig McLachlan acted inappropriately on the set of Neighbours in the 1980s to be used by those defending the actor’s defamation claim.

The Gold Logie winner is suing Fairfax Media, the ABC and Christie Whelan Browne in the NSW Supreme Court.

The case centres on claims the actor bullied and indecently assaulted Browne and two other female cast members during a 2014 production of The Rocky Horror Show.

On Friday, the defendants were permitted to amend their defence to add claims related to his time on Neighbours in 1987 and 1989.

McLachlan had objected to the additions, with his lawyer saying they related to alleged events that were “far too distant” to the matters at hand.

But Justice John Sackar said, on their face, the claims “clearly” relate to McLachlan and his behaviour in a workplace.

How much stock should be put in them, given the passage of time and other factors, “will be a matter for the jury to weigh up” in the trial set down for May 2022, he said.

“Ultimately, what weight is to be applied is to be a matter both for the jury and myself,” the judge said.

He awarded costs against McLachlan for the hearing.

McLachlan, who is seeking $6.5 million in damages, became a household name for his roles on Australian soap operas Neighbours and Home and Away, and more recently led the Ballarat-filmed TV series Doctor Blake Mysteries.

He has repeatedly denied all allegations of inappropriate behaviour and worse.

The defendants have pleaded the defences of truth and contextual truth.

A trial was set down for February 2019 until Victoria Police charged McLachlan over the claims.

He was found not guilty in December 2020 of seven counts of indecent assault and six of common law assault related to four women who’d worked with McLachlan on the The Rocky Horror Show in 2014.

Melbourne magistrate Belinda Wallington had accepted the evidence of the four complainants, describing them as “brave and honest witnesses”.

But she did not find McLachlan’s touching amounted to assault or indecent assault.

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