In a statement read outside court by her lawyer Marina Olsen, Whelan Browne said she was pleased the claim had been withdrawn.
She said she chose to speak to the media about McLachlan’s behaviour, alongside fellow actresses Erika Heynatz and Angela Scundi, after the trio tried to raise their concerns with Rocky Horror production company The Gordon Frost Organisation and were threatened with defamation.
“We came forward for no other reason than to protect the women performing in the 2018 production of the show, so they didn’t have to endure the same behaviour that we did in 2014; that was our only intention,” Whelan Browne’s statement said.
“I was then singled out and sued for defamation. My name was dragged through the mud and my character and own behaviour was exaggerated and called into question … the past four-and-a-half years have significantly traumatised me and the other brave women who spoke up at the time and afterwards.”
Whelan Browne said she has lost her feeling of safety in the world “knowing someone wanted so badly to damage me for speaking the truth”.
“I am pleased this claim has been withdrawn, and I look forward to moving on with my life,” she said. “I hope this is a reminder that women will stand up for themselves and each other, even when threatened by those more powerful.”
McLachlan, who was not in court when his case was withdrawn, said in a statement that the defamation trial had put an “utterly overwhelming” strain on him and his family.
“I cannot continue to place my family under that strain, and my own mental health will not withstand the continuing pressure,” he said. “Ending the case now will finally bring to an end the four years we have endured since the publications were first made, as well as avoiding the need for other witnesses to have to endure the cross-examination process.”
McLachlan said he looked forward to restoring his health and spending more time with friends and family who stood by him throughout the process.
“I will not be making further public statements on this matter,” he said.
In an opening statement in the case, McLachlan’s barrister had said his client was subjected to a “double-pronged attack” by two powerful media organisations, and the case had come to court because it was “the place where Mr McLachlan can respond to the strong attack that those publications made on him”.
The court heard a brief outline of the evidence the 11 women were expected to give about McLachlan, including incidents of sexual harassment, indecent exposure, indecent assault and bullying.
Five of the women were actors in the 2014 production of The Rocky Horror Show and one was a crew member, while the other five women worked with McLachlan on different productions including Neighbours in the 1980s, City Homicide, The Doctor Blake Mysteries, and the 2018 season of Rocky Horror.
Executive editor of the Herald and The Age Tory Maguire said in a statement on Friday that the investigation into McLachlan was published during the height of the #MeToo movement.
“McLachlan’s claim against one of his victims, Christie Whelan Browne, and the media outlets, utilising Australia’s defamation laws, has had a chilling effect on victims’ willingness to tell their stories about other abusers, and the media’s ability to report on these serious allegations,” Maguire said.
“The victims, the media and the public’s right to know have been damaged by this case, more than any costs order can ever repay. This result today is vindication of both McLachlan’s victims and our public interest journalism.”
Director of ABC News Justin Stevens said the withdrawal was a “tremendous result” for the women who showed the courage to speak up publicly.
“Eleven women came forward to give evidence against McLachlan. They would not be silenced,” Stevens said. “It is crucial that defamation laws also not be used to silence the media in reporting accurately and with integrity on matters of such great public interest.
“The ABC stands by its journalism. It stands by the women who came forward. It stands by Christie Whelan Browne.”
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