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Craig McLachlan, defamation and getting the balance right when sexual harassment goes to court

Sexual harassment Sexual assault Courts Criminal law Criminal justice Defamation law Australia

Last week Rocky Horror Show actor Craig McLachlan issued defamation proceedings against Fairfax Media, the ABC and former co-star Christie Whelan Browne, one of the women who has accused McLachlan of sexual harassment. While no criminal charges have been laid, police are currently investigating allegations McLachlan committed multiple sexual offences while performing in the Rocky Horror Show in 2014. McLachlan has denied the allegations.

This follows defamation proceedings launched by Geoffrey Rush against the Daily Telegraph after the newspaper published allegations Rush had behaved inappropriately towards a female cast member at the Sydney Theatre Company. Rush has strenuously denied these allegations too.

The #metoo campaign, with women coming forward with stories of sexual harassment and abuse, often on social media, has proved to be a powerful force in uniting victims and providing a platform for airing allegations. This is a welcome change. While reporting rates have improved in the last 20 years in Australia as victims’ rights have been accelerated through legislation, we know that only about 15% of sexual assault victims in Australia report incidents to the police. There is a strong case for the outcomes of these cases to be reported more publicly to give us a better understanding of their prevalence.

Read the full article on The Conversation.

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