An award winning theatre company has been fined £20,000 after a stage manager became paralysed after falling though a Juliet balcony on to the stage below.
Rachael Presdee, 38, spent six months in hospital and was left paraplegic after the accident at central London's Soho Theatre.
She is now wheelchair bound and, unable to continue her work in the theatre, has returned to her home country of Australia.
Southwark Crown Court heard that the Juliet balcony was "an obvious and high risk and it had an entirely foreseeable danger of death or serious injury".
Today the theatre was fined £20,000 and ordered to pay £10,000 in costs after admitting health and safety breaches.
Judge Alistair McCreath said the harm caused to Miss Presdee was "high indeed".
He said: "Her injuries are described, accurately, as catastrophic.
"One only has to read her two victim impact statements to see the way in which, and the extent to which, her life has been turned upside down.
"She is now a wheelchair user. She has suffered devastating life-changing consequences which have had a fundamental effect on her whole way of life.
"She has met that challenge with great courage and very strong determination."
The judge said staff at the charitable theatre company had been overstretched and safety put at risk.
He said: "As to culpability, it is plain that, in general terms, too much was left to be done by too few."
He said the door presented a risk which was "obvious and known and had become increasingly higher over time", adding: "This was a serious breach of the duty of the company to assess risk and to protect people at its premises from risk."
Miss Presdee was working on a production of Boys for the Headlong theatre company when the accident happened on June 9 2012.
She arrived at the theatre to find the lights off and the auditorium shrouded in darkness. She climbed a spiral staircase looking for the light switch when she found an unmarked and unlocked door.
Hidden behind it was a Juliet balcony - used in Romeo And Juliet. She opened the door and plummeted 10ft (3m) on to the stage below, suffering severe injuries.
Alastair Smith, prosecuting, said: "Behind the black curtain that hung behind the door was the entrance into a Juliet balcony.
"In the darkness Miss Presdee, still searching for a light switch, walked through the curtain and three metres on to the stage below."
He said the injuries Miss Presdee suffered were "significant", adding: "It is not an overstatement to say that, on admission to the hospital, she was diagnosed with the most severe of spinal cord injury possible."
The balcony and door once had a lock and bar across it to protect people from falling through it, but these had been removed.
Westminster Council officers were called in to investigate the incident.
Mr Smith said: "The risk posed by the Juliet balcony was clear to the officers. It was a high risk - a door which leads immediately on to a three-metre drop.
"It was an obvious and high risk and it had an entirely foreseeable danger of death or serious injury."
The court heard that Miss Presdee has settled her civil claim with the theatre.
Several bosses from the theatre attended court for the hearing.
Adrian Derbyshire, defending, said they were deeply upset at what happened.
He said: "That its activities should have caused harm to anyone, let alone serious harm to someone working within the theatre itself, is a source of real and profound sorrow and sadness for all."
In a statement, the theatre said: "The board, directors and staff of Soho Theatre deeply regret the accident involving Rachael Presdee in June 2012.
"We have done as much as we can to ensure that Rachael received the best possible care after the accident and we are relieved for her that her civil claim has now been settled."
It said the theatre "co-operated fully with the investigation" and reviewed all internal processes.
The statement added: "We have done everything we can to ensure that this never happens again and are committed to ensuring the safety of all those working at and visiting the theatre."