Judge Bean orders retrial over notorious Grenfell video

Paul Bussetti, a regular at the South Norwood Conservative Club who became nationally notorious after filming a video of a cardboard model of Grenfell Tower being burned on a bonfire, must face a re-trial, a High Court judge has ruled.

Paul Bussetti: faces a retrial

Bussetti also has four weeks in which to pay a £6,000 legal bill.

He was accused of posting a “grossly offensive” video on WhatsApp in November 2018, prompting widespread outrage. South Norwood neighbours who know Bussetti and his small group of mates were moved to stage an anti-racism march through South Norwood to express solidarity with the Grenfell victims.

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

However, on Friday the High Court quashed Bussetti’s acquittal after the Crown Prosecution Service brought an appeal.

The prosecution at the original trial argued the footage, in which cardboard figures burned as the model went up in flames, was racist in showing black and brown characters representing victims of the Grenfell Tower blaze, which killed 72 people in 2017.

Bussetti claimed 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”.

A clip from the sick Grenfell effigy video

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

The then chief magistrate, Emma Arbuthnot, who is now a High Court judge, said she could not be sure he had filmed the video that was widely seen – including by some directly affected by the tragedy.

However, in his ruling ordering a retrial, Lord Justice Bean said on Friday that the trial judge should have found that the two videos of the bonfire were similar.

“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.

“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.”

Bean, sitting with Mr Justice Dove, also rejected Bussetti’s lawyers’ argument that the prosecution’s case was only about racism.

“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.”

Lord Justice Bean: rejected Bussetti’s lawyers’ defence

The judge later said he did not accept Bussetti’s argument – that the figures in the bonfire were his friends – as a defence. “Even if the trial court accepts that the cutout figures may have been intended to represent the defendant and his friends, that would not in my view provide a defence to the charge.

“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 cutout figures; only the name ‘Grenfell’ at the top of the effigy, which clearly depicts a tall building with people at the windows.”

Bussetti faces a retrial at Westminster magistrates court in front of a different judge, and will also have to pay the CPS’s costs of £6,095 within 28 days.

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4 Responses to Judge Bean orders retrial over notorious Grenfell video

  1. Lewis White says:

    Good on Justice Bean.

    Bussetti ? His “defence” is nauseating.

  2. Leaving aside the grim nature of the alleged actions and sentiments that led to the first trial, it doesn’t seem right that someone can face prosecution again after being acquitted for a crime of this kind.

    • Nick Davies says:

      It’s the same prosecution. He hasn’t been arrested and charged again.

      The CPS appealed on the gounds that the eveidence was not adequately examined.

  3. Ian Kierans says:

    72 People are dead due to allowing known dangerous materials to be used. Many are still seeking to be re-housed. Witnesses asked for immunity from prosecution. Strangely I am unaware of anyone being held accountable under Criminal Law as yet.

    But the CPS decided its priority was to appeal against a not guilty verdict of this specimen of humanity for (allegedly?) burning an effigy and uploading a video. It is o.k to burn images of his friends in his eyes?
    I can understand why the Judge looked at the original decision and overturned it. But I am a bit surprised the CPS even went to appeal court considering the thousands of crimes on their plates and the backlogs in the courts. Clearly burning an effigy and uploading a reprehensible video is an extremely serious offence.
    Which begs the question as to why it is in a Magistrates Court and not a higher Court? Surely serious offences are referred to higher Courts? Or did they not class this as a serious offense?

    It is a strange world we are in that a person gets to be tried twice for burning a cardboard effigy but the ones who may (or may not)have contributed to 72 deaths have immunity from prosecution for their ”witness statements” and the rest do not even appear.
    But hey who would have thought that a Council would leave tenants in environmentally unsound and unsafe buildings in 2021!

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