Paul Bussetti was accused of sending ‘grossly offensive’ footage on WhatsApp in 2018 (Picture: PA)
A dad accused of making a ‘grossly offensive’ video of a cardboard Grenfell Tower burning on a bonfire is set to face another trial.
Paul Bussetti was accused of sending the footage on WhatsApp after it caused outrage after appearing online in November 2018.
The prosecution at the original trial said the video was racist in showing black and brown characters representing victims of the Grenfell Tower disaster, which killed 72 people in 2017.
Bussetti, then 47, was found not guilty after a two-day trial at Westminster Magistrates’ Court in August 2019.
But the High Court ruled on Friday that his acquittal be quashed following an appeal from the Crown Prosecution Service, and ordered a retrial.
Bussetti had claimed the characters were pictures of people he knew, including a figure in black who was supposedly a friend who did martial arts with the nickname ‘little ninja’.
And close to the end of the trial, his lawyers said they had found a second video of the bonfire which they did not previously know about – meaning there was no way to know which footage had been uploaded to YouTube and gone viral.
Emma Arbuthnot, who was chief magistrate at the time and is now a High Court judge, said she could not be sure Bussetti had filmed the one which was widely seen, including by some directly affected by the tragedy.
The Grenfell Tower fire killed 72 people in 2017 (Picture: PA)
Bussetti will now face a retrial at Westminster Magistrates’ Court (Picture: PA)
But when ordering a retrial, Lord Justice Bean said the trial judge should have seen the two videos of the bonfire were similar.
He said: ‘It may be that the sound quality of Mr Bussetti’s video was not as good as that of the video which we have seen, if it was indeed not the same one, or the camera angle slightly different, but that is of minimal significance.’
The judge continued: ‘Since it was clear for the reasons given above that Mr Bussetti’s video was substantially similar, though maybe not identical, to the one uploaded to YouTube and played in court, the chief magistrate was required to consider whether its content was grossly offensive and whether [Bussetti] intended it to be so or was aware that it was likely to be so.’
Sitting with Mr Justice Dove he further rejected Bussetti’s lawyers’ argument that the prosecution’s case was only about racism.
He said: ‘The question was whether Mr Bussetti had sent via WhatsApp a message which he intended to be, or which he was aware might be, grossly offensive to members of the public, in particular members of the Grenfell community, who saw it.
‘Not all the victims of the Grenfell Tower disaster were from ethnic minorities, though many were.’
He added he did not accept Bussetti’s defence that the characters in the bonfire were friends.
‘Even if the trial court accepts that the cut-out figures may have been intended to represent the defendant and his friends, that would not in my view provide a defence to the charge,’ he said.
‘A member of the Grenfell community or other reasonable member of the public, seeing a video of the effigy, would not know that the figures were intended to be anyone other than the residents of Grenfell Tower.
‘There are no names attached to the cut-out figures; only the name ‘Grenfell’ at the top of the effigy, which clearly depicts a tall building with people at the windows.’
Bussetti will now face a retrial at Westminster Magistrates’ Court in front of a different judge, and will also have to pay costs of £6,095 to the CPS within 28 days.
Get in touch with our news team by emailing us at [email protected].
For more stories like this, check our news page.