Belfast Telegraph

Nigella called 'habitual criminal'

Nigella Lawson has been described as a "habitual criminal" in court.

Italian sisters Francesca and Elisabetta Grillo are due to go on trial accused of using a company credit card to buy themselves designer handbags and flights while working as personal assistants to TV cook Lawson and Charles Saatchi.

But lawyers for the defendants argued the case shouldn't go ahead due to the "manipulation of the court process" by Lawson and the millionaire art dealer, who had a high-profile divorce earlier this year.

Yesterday, Isleworth Crown Court in west London heard that Saatchi alleges that Lawson was so high on drugs that she was unaware of what she had or had not permitted the sisters to spend money on.

After hearing submissions from Anthony Metzer QC, defending Elisabetta Grillo, 41, and Karina Arden, defending Francesca, 35, Judge Robin Johnson ruled the trial should go ahead.

Earlier Mr Metzer argued that the case should be dropped as Saatchi and Lawson were at "loggerheads" and the alleged drug use damaged the TV cook's "credibility as an honest witness".

He told the court: "The defendants' case is that Nigella Lawson lied to her ex-husband about her drug use and about the expenditure that was incurred by the defendants, both expressly and implicitly, because she was fearful of Mr Saatchi's reaction if he knew about the extent of the expenditure and drug use. There was a culture of secrecy within Nigellas Lawson's marriage."

He argued that the defendants wouldn't receive a fair trial "as there has been a manipulation of the court process by the two main prosecution witnesses in this case".

He said if it did go ahead "it's a convenient forum for Mr Saatchi and Miss Lawson to rehearse disputed issues between them ... in the criminal courts where, of course, the possibility of libel is not possible". "If Mr Saatchi is telling the truth, then Miss Lawson is a habitual criminal."

Referring to communications between Saatchi and lawyers in the case, Mr Metzer said: "What is clear is that he still maintains and still believes that she is a habitual drug user. That's clear from the statement he gives."

Mr Metzer went on: "Mr Saatchi is saying that Miss Lawson is a criminal because she has been partaking of Class A drugs at her home, and Class B drugs. We say that it's impossible for them both to be telling the truth. The two prosecution witnesses are fundamentally at loggerheads. One of them is telling the truth, the other is not."

The Grillos, both of Kensington Gardens Square, Bayswater, west London, deny the charge against them.

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