Theatre company dubs Christie Whelan Browne’s Rocky Horror Show sex discrimination lawsuit an ‘abuse of process’

Actor Christie Whelan Browne’s sexual discrimination lawsuit against a theatre production company has been described as “an abuse of process” by the company’s lawyers.

Ms Whelan Browne last week lodged documents in the Federal Court, claiming she was “sexually harassed” by a cast member and subjected to sexual discrimination while working on the Rocky Horror Show.

Ms Whelan Browne’s legal action is against Oldfield Entertainment, formally GFO Entertainment, who she claims unlawfully discriminated against her when she spoke out against a fellow cast member.

The actor’s case centres around her alleged experiences on the show’s Melbourne run in 2014, and Oldfield Entertainment’s alleged responses after she complained in 2017.

Today in the Federal Court, Oldfield Entertainment barrister Bronwyn Byrnes said the company was considering making an application for the case to be dismissed or permanently halted “on the basis of these proceedings being an abuse of process”.

Ms Byrnes said the people named in Ms Whelan Browne’s statement of claim no longer worked for the company, putting it at a disadvantage.

“The respondent is not even sure where many of these individuals currently reside and may be in a situation of having to issue subpoenas for these witnesses to give evidence,” she said.

“The recollection of the witnesses will have diminished significantly over that time.”

In 2020, actor Craig McLachlan was acquitted by a magistrate of assault and indecent assault charges following complaints made by female cast members of the production.

Mr McLachlan has denied any wrongdoing.

He later sued the ABC and Nine Newspapers for defamation over reports about the allegations, before discontinuing the proceedings mid-trial in May 2022.

Case adjourned to December

Ms Whelan Browne also lodged a complaint with the Australian Human Rights Commission, however that matter could not be settled by conciliation.

Today, Ms Byrnes said she would apply for a suppression order to prevent sections of Ms Whelan Browne’s statement of claim being publicly released.

She said Mr McLachlan was not a party in the current case, and could suffer “undue distress or embarrassment” if the material was made public.

Ms Byrnes said that could cause Mr McLachlan “to not cooperate in these proceedings”, which would further damage her client’s defence.

Federal Court Justice Elizabeth Raper did not make a ruling on the suppression order application, allowing further time for documents to be filed to the court.

The case was adjourned to December 12, with the parties ordered to enter mediation beforehand.

If the mediation fails, a full trial before the Federal Court could potentially be listed in 2024.

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