Former Neighbours actor Craig McLachlan cleared of stage indecency
Australian actor Craig McLachlan has been cleared over allegations that he indecently assaulted his stage co-stars in 2014.
He had been charged with seven counts of indecent assault and six of common law assault against four women during a run of the musical Rocky Horror Show.
Magistrate Belinda Wallington dismissed all 13 charges against McLachlan, a former star of long-running Australian TV series Neighbours and Home and Away.
Ms Wallington wanted it known the four complainants "were brave and honest witnesses", but their testimonies did not prove McLachlan's guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.
She rejected McLachlan's suggestions the women colluded against him.
Among the allegations were that McLachlan tickled a woman's thigh from behind while onstage during a run of the show in Melbourne. Prosecutors argued this amounted to indecent assault or, failing that, assault.
Melbourne Magistrates Court was told McLachlan played tricks on the cast to make them laugh. In her decision, Ms Wallington said the actor seemed to have thought touching his co-star this way was funny.
But she could not exclude the possibility that an "egotistical self-entitled sense of humour led the accused to genuinely think that (the woman) was consenting to his actions".
McLachlan was also accused of tracing his finger around the outline of another woman's vagina while they performed a bedroom scene. Prosecutors said this was not part of McLachlan's role as Dr Frank-N-Furter.
Ms Wallington concluded McLachlan stopped touching the woman when he became aware she did not consent, and dismissed that charge of indecent assault.
McLachlan has always denied all the allegations against him.
His legal team took aim at his accusers' motivations for coming forward, the clothes they wore, poses they struck in photos and the way they interacted with cast members during the highly sexualised production.
Ms Wallington was perturbed that McLachlan's lawyers seemed unfamiliar with rules prohibiting inappropriate questioning.
"I was not assisted by the lines of questioning ... that called into question the reputations of the complainants, sexual or otherwise, (or) the poses they struck," she said.
McLachlan gave evidence that he had always been "energised and enthusiastic and over the top in the workplace".
Following the decision, which he did not appear in person for, he told reporters he had maintained "a dignified and respectful silence for the past almost three years" and put his trust in the law.
McLachlan said: "We aren't going to speak in any detail today. We will certainly do so in the immediate new year. As you can imagine, we have a lot to say."
Former Neighbours star charged with series of sex offences
Ex-Neighbours star steps down over sex harassment claims
Supreme Court greenlights £14billion damages claim against Mastercard
Johnny Depp applies to Court of Appeal over ‘wife beater’ judgment
Ex-bodyguard to James Stunt cleared of stealing £515,000 diamond ring