PM's Nigella Lawson comments: Ignore them, says judge

Nigella Lawson The court heard Mr Cameron's comments could be "favourable to Ms Lawson"

The jury in the trial of two former personal assistants of Nigella Lawson and Charles Saatchi has been told to ignore complimentary remarks made about the TV cook by the prime minister.

Judge Robin Johnson said it was a "matter of regret" when public figures commented on someone during a trial.

The judge said David Cameron had made comments in a magazine interview that could be "favourable to Ms Lawson".

Former PAs Francesca and Elisabetta Grillo, who are sisters, deny fraud.

'Massive fan'

Giving evidence for the first time in the trial earlier on Thursday, Elisabetta Grillo told the court she had seen repeated evidence of drug-taking while working for Ms Lawson, but never actually witnessed the TV cook taking drugs.

Referring to the judge's remarks to the jury, BBC correspondent Angus Crawford, who was in Isleworth Crown Court, said he had effectively "ticked off" the prime minister.

Analysis

Judge Johnson's rebuke today shows how seriously our system takes the issue of contempt. This year alone the Attorney General Dominic Grieve QC has issued 10 warnings to the media to avoid prejudicial comment in relation to high-profile cases. In 2011 material published after his conviction for the murder of Milly Dowler meant that Levi Bellfield couldn't receive a fair trial on an outstanding charge. In that case the published comments prejudiced the trial. Mr Cameron's did not. But, today's events are more than just a storm in a cupcake. They show everyone has to be careful about the law of contempt, even prime ministers.

Judge Johnson warned the jurors at Isleworth Crown Court to decide the case only on the evidence presented in court.

He said: "You will realise that what public figures may feel about this case or a witness in this case can have no bearing on your own views."

In an interview Mr Cameron told the Spectator magazine he was a "massive fan" of the TV cook, adding that he found her "very funny and warm".

When asked if he was on "Team Nigella", the prime minister replied: "I am."

Downing Street declined to comment, but a source said Mr Cameron was asked during the interview about Ms Lawson - not about the court case - and gave an answer saying he was a fan of her cooking.

"There was never any intention to have an impact on the court case," the source said.

The jury heard that the defendants felt "aggrieved" by Mr Cameron's comments, even though they did not specifically deal with matters in the trial.

Giving evidence for the first time at the trial, 41-year-old Elisabetta Grillo said she had seen evidence of regular drug use in the home Ms Lawson she shared with her first husband John Diamond.

'Rolled-up banknotes'

The court heard that Ms Grillo had found a packet of white powder in a toilet, rolled-up banknotes and credit cards with white powder on them.

Ms Grillo said she had never actually seen the 53-year-old TV chef use drugs and had never confronted her employer about what she had witnessed.

She said she thought Ms Lawson knew that she knew about her drug-taking, but added: "I did not want to embarrass myself and her."

The sisters are accused of abusing their positions by spending £685,000 on credit cards given to them by the couple on themselves.

Francesca (right) and Elisabetta Grillo Francesca and Elisabetta Grillo ran up credit card bills totalling £685,000

The Grillos' defence team has claimed that the pair, of Kensington Square Gardens, Bayswater, were given permission to use the business cards by Ms Lawson to cover for her use of drugs.

'Up and down'

During her evidence earlier in the trial, Ms Lawson admitted using cocaine a handful of times with her first husband Mr Diamond when he was dying and once in 2010 while going through a difficult time in her marriage to Mr Saatchi.

She also said she smoked cannabis during the last year of her marriage to the 70-year-old businessman and art dealer, however she denied having a drug problem or being an addict.

In court on Thursday, barrister Anthony Metzer QC asked Elisabetta Grillo if she thought Ms Lawson's admission that she took cocaine with Mr Diamond but never again until 2010 was true.

Start Quote

I was in shock because I still think I did nothing bad”

End Quote Elisabetta Grillo

She replied: "No", adding "I know I saw more stuff before that."

Ms Grillo told the court she saw evidence of drug use "every three days, something like that".

She added that Ms Lawson could at times be "mean" and her moods were "very up and down".

Ms Grillo said she felt surprised when she was accused of fraud.

"I was in shock because I still think I did nothing bad," she told the court.

She also said that Mr Saatchi would shout at her because her English was not that good, which made her "scared what to say".

The court also heard that Ms Lawson told the former PA she felt like she was "being kept in a gold cage" by Mr Saatchi.

"She couldn't go out like normal people for a birthday because Charles wanted her there," Ms Grillo said.

The trial continues.

More on This Story

Related Stories

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external Internet sites

BBC London

Weather

London

29 °C 16 °C

BBC Local Live

  1.  
    Met Police team 'under-resourced' 10:40:

    The Met Police's Sexual Offences, Exploitation and Child Abuse Command is "seriously under-resourced" as dozens of posts are unfilled, despite a rise in child abuse claims, a report by London Assembly has found.

    From 2012/13 to 2013/14 the number of child rape allegations in the capital increased by 14% - from from 511 to 583 - and sexual assault claims by 13% - from 1,599 to 1,803, but more than 50 roles in the unit were vacant in September.

     
  2.  
    Charles de Menezes family 10:33: Danny Shaw Home affairs correspondent, BBC News

    tweets: Jean Charles de Menezes family: "very upsetting & absolute disgrace to know the police were spying on us after everything we've been through"

    Relatives say they are planning to consult lawyers on possible legal action.

     
  3.  
    Information 'gathered' on Menezes family 10:22:

    The Metropolitan Police gathered information on relatives of Jean Charles de Menezes, who was shot dead by police at Stockwell Tube station in July 2005.

    Jean Charles de Menezes is seen in this identification photo from Jan 29, 2001 Jean Charles de Menezes was shot by police in July 2005

    His family's lawyer said she had been informed by the Met that information was gathered on them after his death. The Met Police will give an update on Operation Herne - the investigation into undercover policing - later.

     
  4.  
    Keeping safe in the Thames 10:10:

    More than 84% of the 34 people who drowned in the River Thames since 2010 were adult men, the RNLI said.

    Guy Addington, the RNLI's Coastal Safety Manager in the south east, said: "If you enter the water, intentionally or otherwise, you are at risk of cold water shock, which seriously impairs your ability to swim, and causes uncontrollable gasping, which can draw water into your lungs."

     
  5.  
    Broken down train 09:56:

    A broken down train between City Thameslink and London Blackfriars is causing delays of up to 30 minutes to journeys between London St Pancras International and London Blackfriars, National Rail has said.

     
  6.  
    Lives lost in the River Thames 09:46:

    Fifteen people accidentally drowned in the River Thames last year, with a total of 34 lives lost in the river over the last four years, figures from the Royal National Lifeboat Institution reveal.

    RNLI crew in London RNLI crews rescued 344 people in London last year

    And there were 16 near-misses, as the RNLI's London crews helped rescued 344 people in 2013. The charity has launched a drowning awareness campaign, Respect the Water, urging people to take care.

     
  7.  
    Drugs seized from Ilford 09:34:

    Redbridge MPS tweets: Cash & drugs seized at Springfield Court, Forsythia Close, Ilford as part of Op Big Wing. #Redbridge#Bigwing

    Cash and drugs seized
     
  8.  
    Wandsworth council estates improvement 09:20:

    More than £6.5m will be spent on a programme of improvements to council estates in Wandsworth, Wandsworth Guardian reports.

    Patmore and Carey Gardens estates in Battersea, the Alton in Roehampton, the Ashburton in Putney, the Magdalen Park estate in Earlsfield and Wandsworth's Morris Gardens estate will see improvements.

     
  9.  
    Old flame 09:07: Andy Dangerfield BBC News Online

    tweets: I'm visiting an old flame. London 2012 #OlympicCauldron is on show @MuseumofLondon

    London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Cauldron
     
  10.  
    Woman stabbed repeatedly 08:58:

    A woman is in a serious condition after being stabbed at the property in Allnutt Way, Clapham, yesterday at about 17:45.

    Officers believe a man entered the address and attacked the victim, in her 30s, before leaving in a silver Peugeot van. The woman, who suffered multiple stab wounds, knew the attacker, police said. No-one has been arrested.

     
  11.  
    VIDEO: Conducting a choir 08:47:

    How do you conduct a choir if you can't see the music or the performers in front of you?

    Victoria Oruwari

    For blind opera singer Victoria Oruwari this is the challenge she faces as she joins four other visually impaired musicians who have come together for a conducting masterclass before publicly taking the baton and leading a performance of their chosen music at London's Wigmore Hall.

     
  12.  
    Top headlines
  13.  
    Resources to tackle child abuse 08:37: BBC London 94.9 Radio

    From 09:00, Vanessa Feltz is discussing whether the police need more resources to help deal with the 10% rise in child abuse in the capital?

    Call us on 020 722 42000 or email Vanessa@bbc.co.uk

     
  14.  
    Impact of war 08:29: Beth Rose BBC News Online

    Aerial photographs which show the impact of World War One on the UK landscape have been released as part of a project to mark the war's centenary.

    St James' Park

    Britain from Above features 95,000 images taken by the company Aerofilms Ltd which show buildings linked to the war effort.

     
  15.  
    Police 'spied on dead student's family' 08:19:

    A mother campaigning for an inquiry into her son's death in 1997 says she has been told she was spied on by undercover Scotland Yard officers.

    Ricky Reel

    Student Ricky Reel vanished during a night out in London, after he and his friends had been racially abused by two white men. His body was found in the River Thames.

     
  16.  
    Disruption on trains 08:14:

    Southern trains and Gatwick Express in and out of Victoria are running with delays of 20 minutes following signal problems at Battersea Park.

    Southern and First Capital Connect services via Carshalton are running with delays of 30 minutes following an obstruction on the line earlier and there are delays of up to 15 minutes on the c2c following an earlier trespass incident in the Southend area.

    For the latest travel news follow @BBCTravelAlert on Twitter.

     
  17.  
    Hot and sunny forecast 08:08:

    The day will be dry and hot with a little cloud developing through the afternoon. Maximum Temperature: 29C (84F)

     
  18.  
    Delays on the road 08:03:

    The M25 is down to three lanes anticlockwise about four miles after J28 A12 Brook Street Roundabout for barrier repairs following an accident yesterday afternoon. About 30 metres of barrier damage needs to be fixed.

    And the M4 is slow London-bound from J7 Slough West towards J5 Langley following a breakdown.

    For the latest travel information visit BBC London's travel page.

     
  19.  
    Good morning 08:00: Debabani Majumdar BBC London News

    I'll be guiding you through BBC Local Live today, bringing you the latest news, travel, weather and sport from across London.

    Get in touch with your comments and photos by emailing london.locallive@bbc.co.uk.

     

Features

  • Shinji Mikamo's father's watchTime peace

    The story of the watch that survived Hiroshima


  • A man hangs a Catalan flag at his balcony near Barcelona in 2013Homage to Caledonia

    Who are the Europeans with an eye on the Scottish referendum?


  • Elephant Diaries - BBCGoing wild

    Wildlife film-makers reveal the tricks of the trade


  • Hamas rally in the West Bank village of Yatta, 2006Hamas hopes

    Why the Palestinian group won't back down yet


BBC © 2014 The BBC is not responsible for the content of external sites. Read more.

This page is best viewed in an up-to-date web browser with style sheets (CSS) enabled. While you will be able to view the content of this page in your current browser, you will not be able to get the full visual experience. Please consider upgrading your browser software or enabling style sheets (CSS) if you are able to do so.