Radiohead stage death trial collapses

October 2017

Live events sector


“No doubt, this decision will be incomprehensible to Mr Johnson’s family, who can justifiably complain that justice has not been done”. Judge Ann Nelson


The criminal case and trial against the organisers of Radiohead’s 2012 concert in Toronto where British drum technician Scott Johnson was killed and three others injured when a scaffolding structure collapsed at Downsview Park in June 16th 2012 has ended because of delays in the trial itself, primarily as the original judge hearing the case received a promotion. In July 2017 Justice Shaun Nakatsuru, said that his appointment to the Ontario Superior Court meant he no longer had jurisdiction over the case. Nakatsuru said he came to the decision with “great regret” saying “My appointment was unexpected and without notice. I know that the defendants have waited a long time for the final resolution of this case. So has the public” and “There are many compelling reasons why it would be in the best interests of justice for me to finish this. But I cannot.”

The show was promoted by Live Nation, and LNE and its Ontario subsidiary were subsequently charged under the Canadian province’s Occupational Health And Safety Act. Optex Staging & Services Inc was also charged over four alleged breaches of health and safety laws, while an engineer working on the show, Domenic Cugliari, faced one charge.  All pleaded not guilty when charges were brought in June 2013.

Live Nation had already sought to have the trial ended over what they said were unreasonable delays. A more recent precedent in Canadian law added weight to their arguments. Judge Ann Nelson agreed saying “this case was a complex case that required more time than other cases in the system. [But], after allowing for all of the exceptional circumstances that were in play, this case still will have taken too long to complete” but added  “No doubt, this decision will be incomprehensible to Mr Johnson’s family, who can justifiably complain that justice has not been done” and it undoubtedly right to say that we are “less likely to find out how this death could best have been avoided, and how others might be in future.”

A highly unsatisfactory conclusion. Johnson’s father told reporters that he wasn’t surprised by Nelson’s decision, but that it was “absolutely staggering” that this case was being called off because of a precedent which came into effect after the trial into his son’s death had started. He told the Toronto Star: “I quite like the idea, that the liberal nation that Canada is, that it wants to be fair across the board, but I don’t see any fairness in this judgment at all and I don’t see how anybody else can, to be honest. It doesn’t tell us why our son was killed and we’re none the wiser, as things stand, as to why he’s not here. I’m not very happy about it, but I’m equally resigned to the fact that there doesn’t seem much we can do about it”.

Radiohead said in a 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”. and

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