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The case of the odd couple

J.S. Bird ventures warily into a legal minefield

Have I missed something? These past few weeks, the British public has been ‘entertained’ by the goings-on at the trial at Isleworth Crown Court of the Grillo sisters (Elisabetta and Francesca), sometimes employees of Charles Saatchi and Nigella Lawson, on fraud charges.

You’ll have to forgive me, but I’m a bit hazy on the details … however, as I remember them, before proceedings had even begun, allegations about Nigella’s supposed drug-taking were made public upon the order of Judge Robin Johnson.

We then had exposure of an email composed by Charles Saatchi to Nigella Lawson in which he intimated that he believed them; highly-publicised giving of evidence by both Saatchi and Lawson; lurid exposure of the details of (to ordinary Brits) the extraordinary financial arrangements and domestic expenditure of said couple; and now – yesterday – the judge publicly rebuking prime minister David Cameron for telling The Spectator magazine that he was a member of ‘#teamnigella’ and a huge fan of the celebrity chef.

I must add here that I possess but the vaguest understanding of the current rules of court reporting, but I can only presume that the media is covering the trial exactly and exclusively as it is permitted to do by the law, as applied by the court in this particular case.

That registered, pardon me please for tending to the view that something is somewhat strange about these court proceedings.

The defendants have been accused of fraud. Presumably, once the prosecution has presented its case, counsel for the two defendants will do likewise with their rebuttals and defence.

As an outsider who has not heard the evidence, I assume that either the defendants acted beyond the briefs of their respective employments … or they didn’t.

In this context, to me, all the apparently colourful details revealed about the Saatchi/Lawson home life and their individual personalities seem pretty irrelevant. Unless, possibly, the defendants’ joint defence amounts to an assertion that they had been given carte blanche by their employers to spend money, not only whenever they wanted, but indeed upon whatever they chose.

In all other circumstances, I remain to be convinced that the ‘lurid details’ referred to above are the kind of thing that ought necessarily to be broadcast to the public.

I’m all for the principle ‘justice must not be done, but seen to be done’, but – commenting generally here – I’m not sure that the public needs, or indeed wishes, to know what is effectively just dirty linen being washed in public.

I say that acknowledging that another possible explanation is that the defendants – or even Saatchi and Lawson – are simply using the trial process to engage in score-settling.



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About J S Bird

A retired academic, Jeremy will contribute article on subjects that attract his interest. More Posts