Theatre fall leads to prosecution and civil claim

November 2014

Live events sector


A award winning theatre company faces a ‘substantial’ fine after a stage hand was left paralysed after walking through an unmarked “Juliet” door and tumbling 10ft onto the stage below. Rachael Presdee, 38, spent six months in hospital and was left paraplegic following the accident at Soho Theatre in central London, Westminster Magistrates’ Court heard. She is now wheelchair-bound and, unable to continue her career in theatre, has returned to her native Australia. The Soho Theatre Company Ltd pleaded guilty to Section 3 of the Health and Safety at Work Act for failing to protect the safety of visiting production staff, and to Regulation 3 of the Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations for failing to identify and manage the risk to which such persons were exposed. The prosecution was brought by Westminster City Council

Miss Presdee was working backstage on a 2012 production of Boys. The court heard Miss Presdee was adjusting the stage lights for an evening performance when she walked through the unlocked door – traditionally used for the balcony scene in Romeo and Juliet – into “thin air”. The door had been identified as a potential safety risk a month earlier but had not been marked or secured.

District Judge John Zani said it was left unsecured for “not an inconsiderable period of time”, adding: “Anybody could have accessed that door and fallen through and have been injured either to a lesser or a greater degree.”

Miss Presdee sent a four-page statement outlining the “devastating” effect the accident has had on her life and which effectively ended her career. Eleanor Sanderson, representing Soho Theatre Company which has operated as a charity for the last 14 years, made an annual profit of £63,000 last year and express deep regret for the incident saying “All at the Soho Theatre Company were shocked and are devastated by what happened on that day.”

The case was referred to Southwark Crown Court for sentencing at a later date. A civil case is due to be heard later this year.

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