Belfast Telegraph

Sunday 21 September 2014

Nigella Lawson hits back: 'Trial vilified me for drug use without the right to respond'

TV cook Nigella Lawson arriving at Isleworth Crown Court in west London to give evidence in the case two of her former personal assistants who have today been found not guilty of defrauding the celebrity couple of nearly 700,000 pounds.
TV cook Nigella Lawson arriving at Isleworth Crown Court in west London to give evidence in the case two of her former personal assistants who have today been found not guilty of defrauding the celebrity couple of nearly 700,000 pounds.
Elisabetta Grillo (L) and Francesca Grillo arrive at Isleworth Crown Court on December 19, 2013 in Isleworth, England. The Italian sisters, who worked as assistants to Nigella Lawson and Charles Saatchi, were accused of defrauding them of over 300,000 GBP.  (Photo by Bethany Clarke/Getty Images)
Elisabetta Grillo (L) and Francesca Grillo arrive at Isleworth Crown Court on December 19, 2013 in Isleworth, England. The Italian sisters, who worked as assistants to Nigella Lawson and Charles Saatchi, were accused of defrauding them of over 300,000 GBP. (Photo by Bethany Clarke/Getty Images)

Nigella Lawson has lashed out at the justice system after her personal assistants were cleared of fraud charges.

The jury at Isleworth Crown Court, west London, found Italian sisters Elisabetta and Francesca Grillo not guilty of spending almost £700,000 on company credit cards for items including designer shoes and clothes.

But the trial heard claims about TV chef Lawson's private life, including that she was a "habitual drug user", which Lawson has dubbed a "ridiculous sideshow" that detracted from the charges levelled against her former aides.

A statement from Lawson said: "I am disappointed but unsurprised by this verdict.

"Over the three-week trial the jury was faced with a ridiculous sideshow of false allegations about drug use which made focus on the actual criminal trial impossible.

"My experience as a witness was deeply disturbing. When false claims about habitual drug use were introduced I did everything possible to ensure the CPS was aware of the sustained background campaign deliberately designed to destroy my reputation.

"During the trial not one witness claimed to see me take drugs and not one of my three assistants was asked about these claims by the defence, despite being cross-examined at length. I did my civic duty, only to be maliciously vilified without the right to respond. I can only hope that my experience will highlight the need for a reform that will give witnesses some rights to rebut false claims made against them.

"Even more harrowing was seeing my children subjected to extreme allegations in court without any real protection or representation. For this I cannot forgive the court process.

"When I gave evidence I spoke of my regret at having to talk about the circumstances of the end of my marriage and also voiced concern about a campaign to circulate false allegations carried out over the course of this summer, then circulated as witness statements from the Grillos by a publicist, and eventually added to the defence of this prosecution in November. That concern remains.

"While this has been a difficult and upsetting time for both me and my family I would like to thank my friends, family and all those who have expressed support throughout this ordeal."

It was alleged that between January 1, 2008, and December 31, 2012, the Grillo sisters committed fraud by abusing their positions as PAs, using a company credit card for personal gain - and were accused of spending more than £685,000 on themselves.

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