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Radiohead “appalled” after trial over drum tech’s death called off

By | Published on Monday 11 September 2017


Radiohead have said they are “appalled” that the trial relating to the death of their drum tech Scott Johnson – who died after staging collapsed ahead of a show in Toronto in 2012 – has been called off simply because the case took too long to work its way through the court system.

As previously reported, Johnson was killed and three others injured after a scaffolding structure collapsed onto the open-air stage on which Radiohead were due to perform. The show was promoted by Live Nation, and the live music giant was subsequently charged under Ontario’s Occupational Health And Safety Act, alongside provider Optex Staging & Services Inc and an individual engineer working on the show, Domenic Cugliari.

The criminal case reached court in 2015, but quickly started to drag. Then earlier this year the judge overseeing the trial was promoted and no longer had jurisdiction. As a result a mistrial was declared, and the whole case was set to begin anew.

However, the defendants argued that the entire case should instead be abandoned, citing a relatively new precedent in Canadian law designed to stop criminal cases from dragging on indefinitely. The new judge considering the proceedings agreed that, under the new precedent, the charges against Live Nation, Optex and Cugliari should indeed be permanently stayed.

Speaking to the Toronto Star last week, Johnson’s father said that while he wasn’t surprised that the judge had complied with the defendants’ request to call off the trial, it was nevertheless “absolutely staggering” that the whole case was being cancelled because of a precedent which came into effect after the court hearing into his son’s death had started.

As the news of last week’s decision to permanently stay the charges broke, Radiohead’s Thom Yorke stated on Twitter that “words utterly fail me”. Meanwhile, on Friday, Yorke and his bandmates issued a short joint statement over the Canadian judge’s decision.

The band said in their statement: “We are appalled by the decision to stay the charges against Live Nation, Optex Staging and Domenic Cugliari. This is an insult to the memory of Scott Johnson, his parents and our crew. It offers no consolation, closure or assurance that this kind of accident will not happen again”.