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In this article, first published on the Halsbury’s Law Exchange blog, Felicity Gerry argues that Nigella Lawson’s recent treatment in the high-profile fraud trial of her former PAs illustrates an equality in our criminal justice system we should applaud

Nigella Lawson is a victim of domestic violence, but she is not a victim of the criminal justice system.

Much has been said about the treatment of Ms Lawson as a witness in the fraud trial of her former personal assistants, Francesco and Elisabetta Grillo; an experience she has described as “deeply disturbing”. There have even been calls for greater protection of witnesses as a result.

This comes at a time when former chief prosecutor Sir Keir Starmer QC has announced that he will lead a review into the treatment of victims in the criminal justice system.

No review of the treatment of witnesses will stop them from being accused of lying or being inaccurate when that is the defence case; that is the purpose of a trial. To put this into perspective, if you were accused of stealing from your employer, then you would naturally expect your accuser to be questioned robustly.

The prosecution case was that although the staff were authorised to use the relevant credit cards, the spending by the Grillo sisters on themselves was not authorised. This largely depended on the evidence of Ms Lawson and her former husband Charles Saatchi. It was also supported by Saatchi’s accountant, Mr Gajjar, who initially treated the personal spending as a “trivial matter”, and Lawson’s personal assistant, Zoe Wales, who gave evidence of large sums she had been authorised to spend.

The law on fraud is pretty simple in this context. It was alleged that the Grillo sisters committed fraud by abuse of their position by using a company credit card for personal gain.

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