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Craig McLachlan not guilty on all charges of indecent assault, common assault

Craig McLachlan has been found not guilty on all 13 charges over allegations he indecently assaulted fellow actors during a Melbourne stage show.

Craig McLachlan has been found not guilty of all charges on allegations he indecently assaulted four women during a Melbourne stage show.

The Gold Logie winner, famous for his roles in Neighbours, Home and Away and The Doctor Blake Mysteries, looked towards the ceiling and exhaled when magistrate Belinda Wallington acquitted him of the first two charges on Tuesday.

He remained composed as Ms Wallington then acquitted him of a further 11 charges, related to all four women, who were all co-stars in the 2014 production.

Craig McLachlan leaving his lawyer's chambers in Sydney in November with his partner Vanessa Scammell.

Craig McLachlan leaving his lawyer's chambers in Sydney in November with his partner Vanessa Scammell.Credit:Rhett Wyman

Mr McLachlan, 55, sat in a room as he watched Ms Wallington deliver her verdicts. The actor watched the verdicts handed down on a video link from an office in Sydney, with partner Vanessa Scammell in the room.

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Ms Wallington read her verdicts from Melbourne Magistrates Court to conclude a contested hearing that began last year. He was charged early last year.

Mr McLachlan pleaded not guilty to seven charges of indecent assault and six of common assault.

Those charges were laid in relation to seven incidents including an allegation he touched one woman near her genitals during a live show while he was hidden from the audience but she could be seen, an allegation he forced his tongue into another woman's mouth during an unscripted kiss, and that he twice kissed another co-star when backstage.

He was also accused of running his hand up the leg of a fourth woman while she was performing in a scene and he was hidden from the audience.

Mr McLachlan maintained his innocence through a contested hearing that began last year.

He denied some of the incidents happened - including the allegations he indecently assaulted the women while they were performing - and maintained those that did were consensual or in the spirit of the show. He and his lawyers argued that McLachlan was given a licence to improvise during the show.

He said the kiss on stage happened but that it was only a brief kiss, no more than one or two seconds on the lips, in keeping with his character and the scene.

Ms Wallington found while the incidents probably occurred, she was not satisfied the incidents were indecent and found in Mr McLachlan's favour.

Prosecutors had argued Mr McLachlan acted in a predatory fashion towards his co-stars and took advantage of a power imbalance, given he was a high-profile star, and exploited their vulnerability, given the scenes the women were in.

They also presented examples of sexualised comments, dirty jokes and physical actions including kisses and hugs that they said constituted inappropriate conduct towards the women.

But Mr McLachlan's lawyers argued for their client to be found not guilty because a reasonable doubt existed in relation to all charges.

They submitted the women were unreliable witnesses whose accounts were inconsistent, fabricated, and possibly the result of collusion from discussions in the years afterwards.

They also argued there was an overtly sexualised atmosphere among cast members during the Melbourne leg of the show that included physical pranks, hugs and kisses instead of saying hello and goodbye, actors sitting on each other's laps, a constant stream of dirty jokes and insincere remarks about their admiration and love for each other.

Mr McLachlan gave evidence over several days last month from the office of his lawyer, Stuart Littlemore, QC. The women gave evidence in a closed court last year.

The actor did not spend any time in custody over the allegations as he was charged on summons.

The actor has also begun defamation action against The Age, The Sydney Morning Herald, the ABC and one of the women over news reports last year that alleged he engaged in sexual misconduct, harassment and indecent assault during the production.

The defamation proceedings were adjourned until the criminal case was completed.

Adam Cooper joined The Age in 2011 after a decade with AAP. Email or tweet Adam with your news tips.

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