Morgan Tait is the NZ Herald's police reporter.

New act could catch St Kent's

College may face health and safety fines after boys’ throats cut in ‘Todd’ show.
Students had wanted the play to be as 'authentic as possible'.
Students had wanted the play to be as 'authentic as possible'.

The school at the centre of an ill-fated stage production of Sweeney Todd could face prosecution under new health and safety laws, says a specialist employment lawyer.

The remaining nights of Auckland private school St Kentigern College's show were cancelled after two 16-year-old cast members were hospitalised on Wednesday.

Worksafe and the police are investigating after the boys received cuts to their necks from a prop razor.

The Herald on Sunday understands authorities are considering prosecuting the school under the new Health and Safety at Work Act.

Chloe Luscombe, who specialises in employment law policies and procedures for Auckland law firm Dundas Street, believed the college and its principal could become the first to be prosecuted under the act if found to be at fault.

"There are three levels of responsibility involved which, under the new rules, would overlap," Luscombe said. "These include the school, the principal and the workers - which in this instance would be the teachers.

"The board of trustees would also fall into the same layer of responsibility as the principal but they cannot be prosecuted as individuals because they are unpaid. It is also unlikely any teachers would be prosecuted."

If the school or the principal were found to be in the wrong, fines of up to $600,000 could be handed out.

St Kentigern's head of college, Steve Cole, said this week the students had wanted everything to be "as authentic as possible", including using real blades, which he said had been blunted and wrapped in protective layers.

On Friday, he said he was not concerned about possible consequences for the school under the new health and safety laws, which came into force on Monday. He was "confident" in the school's procedures.

Luscombe said any potential prosecution of the college or its principal would hinge on whether reasonable precautions had been taken. "An area that will be looked at is whether things could have been done differently and if so, would it have been inexpensive. In this case, it might be hard to argue against that."

The mother of one of the lead actors said the injuries were a mystery. Pam Nobbs, whose daughter Olivia played Johanna, said the incident was a "terrible accident". "They practised so many times and it all went fine. Maybe [the blade] just wore through, I don't know."

She said her daughter, and her family in the audience, did not know anything had gone was wrong until after the show.

- Herald on Sunday

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