Man faces retrial over sharing video of Grenfell Tower model burning

·2-min read

A father accused of filming and sharing a video showing a cardboard model of Grenfell Tower being burned on a bonfire will face a retrial, the High Court has ruled.

Paul Bussetti, then 47, allegedly sent the "grossly offensive" video on WhatsApp after filming it in a friend's garden in November 2018.

The footage, in which cardboard figures burned as the model went up in flames, was then widely shared online - prompting outrage in the wake of the 2017 blaze that killed 72 people.

Bussetti was found not guilty of malicious communication after a two-day trial at Westminster Magistrates' Court in August 2019.

But in a judgment on Friday, the High Court quashed the acquittal and ordered a retrial after the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) brought an appeal.

The prosecution at the original trial argued that the footage was racist in showing black and brown characters representing victims of the Grenfell Tower fire.

But Bussetti argued the characters were images of his associates, including a black-clad figure meant to represent a friend who did martial arts and had been referred to as "little ninja".

Near the end of the trial, Bussetti's lawyers said that a second video of the bonfire existed which they were not previously aware of, meaning there was no way to know which footage had been uploaded to YouTube and gone viral.

Then-Chief Magistrate Emma Arbuthnot, who is now a High Court judge, said she could not be sure he had filmed the video.

But Lord Justice Bean on Friday said the trial judge should have found that the two videos of the bonfire were similar.

While ordering a retrial, 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."

Lord Justice Bean, sitting with Mr Justice Dove, also 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."

The judge later said that he also did not accept Bussetti's claims that the figures in the bonfire were his friends as a defence.

Bussetti will now face a retrial at Westminster Magistrates' Court in front of a different judge.

He will also have to pay the CPS' costs of £6,095 within 28 days.

Our goal is to create a safe and engaging place for users to connect over interests and passions. In order to improve our community experience, we are temporarily suspending article commenting