R v Grillo

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R[n 1] v Grillo and Grillo
Credit-cards.jpg
Credit cards were issued for long-term use by these two employees of the family; the case determined whether they against the permissible levels by either of celebrity couple Nigella Lawson and Charles Saatchi whose marriage was ending
CourtIsleworth Crown Court
Full case nameThe Crown v Elisabetta Grillo and Francesca Grillo
Decided2013
Case history
Prior action(s)Carnaco Partnership v Grillo (2012; Freezing injunction application)[1]
Subsequent action(s)none
Court membership
Judge(s) sittingHHJ Robin Johnson

R v Grillo and Grillo was the trial of two sisters, at Isleworth Crown Court.

The defendants, former personal assistants to Nigella Lawson and her ex-husband Charles Saatchi, were accused of specifically without special authorisation, using their credit cards on the account of Saatchi's private company between January 2008 and December 2012.[2]

In 2013, the sisters plead not guilty to the charges.[3] The jury found them not guilty.

Background[edit]

Charles Saatchi and Nigella Lawson married in 2003.[4] Lawson was married to the journalist John Diamond until his death in 2001; Lawson and Diamond had two children together.[4] In June 2013, photographs emerged of Saatchi grasping Lawson around the throat at a dinner table outside a Mayfair restaurant. Saatchi accepted a conditional caution for assault from the police over the incident.[5] He announced his intention to divorce Lawson, stating that the couple had "become estranged and drifted apart".[6] Lawson made no public comment;[6] however, Lawson filed for divorce citing ongoing unreasonable behaviour.[7] On 31 July 2013, Saatchi and Lawson were granted a decree nisi effectively ending their 10-year marriage with court documents suggesting that the two had already arrived at a private financial settlement.[7]

One of the sisters was hired by Lawson as her personal assistant and nanny in 1999, during her marriage to Diamond.[citation needed] Four years later, after Lawson married Saatchi, the couple hired her sister, to serve as an additional personal assistant to a team of four other assistants .As part of their duties, the sisters were expected to make certain purchases on behalf of their employers; they were therefore given Coutts credit cards in their own names on Saatchi's Conarco Partnership company account. The Grillos were accused of misusing the credit cards to make personal purchases worth thousands of pounds.[8]

Pre-trial hearings[edit]

In an unusual move, on 26 November 2013 in a pre-trial hearing the presiding judge, Robin Johnson, lifted an order that had prevented publication of claims made in pre-trial proceedings on 15 November.[9] In a "bad character" defence relating to Lawson,[10] enabling her to be cross-examined during the trial,[11] the Grillo sisters alleged that Lawson permitted their personal use of the private company credit card resulting in spending the next day of £300,000 between them,[citation needed] [12] in return for their non-disclosure to Saatchi of Lawson's believed use, for at least ten years, of cocaine and cannabis (Class A and B drugs respectively) nor her unauthorised use of prescription drugs.[9] The defence counsel for , Anthony Metzer, QC, instructed through Janes Solicitors,[13] said that while the arrangement was not verbalised, it amounted to a "tacit understanding".[10]

An email sent by Saatchi to Lawson which was read out in court indicated that he believed the Grillos' assertions and later he said that he was "completely astonished by the alleged scale of the drug use set out in the statements". Saatchi has stated that he was unaware of this reported situation until a late stage of the couple's marriage.[2] The prosecuting counsel Jane Carpenter described the Grillos' claims about Lawson's drug use as "totally scurrilous" and Lawson's spokesman declined to comment, "as the proceedings are still live".[9] Carpenter said that although the sisters had been interviewed on 2 August 2012,[14] and charged in March,[11] they had only made allegations against Lawson in October 2013.[10]

On 27 November, the defence Anthony Metzer, QC, attempted to have the case thrown out as an abuse of process on the grounds that the two prosecution witnesses, Lawson and Saatchi, could not be "witnesses of truth". This application was rejected by the judge.[15]

The trial[edit]

On 27 November 2013, the trial began.[16]

Saatchi testified that it had been Lawson's idea to give the Grillos credit cards. He stated that he had not authorized the Grillos' purchases himself, but was unable to say whether Lawson had approved them. He testified that he had never seen Lawson take illegal drugs, but added that the drug accusations against Lawson were "pretty compelling".[17] Lawson had been "very cross" when he told her that he had confronted the Grillos over their credit card use, Saatchi stated. Although Saatchi wanted to deal with the matter privately, Lawson suggested involving the police.[18] Saatchi also testified that he was "bereft" [sic] that his email about the drug allegations had been made public.[19] Lawson admitted to taking cocaine and cannabis but denied she was or is addicted, she stated, ""I found it made an intolerable situation tolerable. It’s a false friend. I found the answer was in changing the situation and trying to create a tolerable situation for me and my family. Since freeing myself from a brilliant but brutal man, I’m now totally cannabis-, cocaine- and drug-free."[20]

Saatchi's finance director Rahul Gajaar testified that, after the couple's former assistants' alleged unauthorised spending had been uncovered, he suggested that they pay off the debt gradually over a long period. However, the Grillos were unhappy with this suggestion, as they felt they would be tied to the Saatchis for the rest of their lives.

Sharrine Scholtz, another former employee of Charles Saatchi testified personal versus business spending on the cards were not distinguished. Scholtz allegedly processed credit statements and allocated spending on items like beauty treatments, clothes, hotels, shopping to business accounts. When Scholtz wanted to leave Saatchi's employment she alleges she was threatened over taxi fares she had been allowed to claim and was falsely accused of stealing from petty cash. She testified that, if she did not sign an agreement her employer wanted, she "thought perhaps [she] would be standing [accused in court] instead of Lisa and Francesca". [21]

On 12 December, the judge made critical remarks concerning comments made by David Cameron in The Spectator magazine in which Cameron said he was a "huge fan" of Lawson and a member of "Team Nigella", her support group on social media. The judge asked the jury to ignore what the Prime Minister had said.[22]

On 12 December 2019 Saatchi started proceedings against Rahul Gajaar ( who was key witness in the case against the Grillos) former Finance director, who worked for Saatchi for 16 years till February 2019 when he was accused by Saatchi of misappropriation of company assets and misuse of the company credit card for personal use.[23] [24]

Verdict[edit]

On 20 December 2013 the jury found both sisters not guilty.[25]

See also[edit]

Footnotes[edit]

  1. ^ R for Regina, Latin for "queen": the Crown Prosecution Service acts in the name of the Crown.

References[edit]

  1. ^ "John Machelle QC". Retrieved 28 November 2013.[permanent dead link]
  2. ^ a b Ian Johnston "Charles Saatchi believes his ex-wife Nigella Lawson is a ‘habitual criminal’, court hears", The Independent, 27 November 2013
  3. ^ "Nigella Lawson PAs spent '£685,000 living the high-life'", ITV News, 27 November 2013
  4. ^ a b "Charles Saatchi cautioned for Nigella Lawson assault". BBC. 19 June 2013. Retrieved 28 November 2013.
  5. ^ Walker, Peter (18 June 2013). "Charles Saatchi case: what is a police caution?". The Guardian. Retrieved 28 November 2013.
  6. ^ a b "Charles Saatchi and Nigella Lawson to divorce", BBC News, 7 July 2013.
  7. ^ a b Jones, Sam (31 July 2013). "Nigella Lawson and Charles Saatchi granted divorce in 70-second hearing". The Guardian. Retrieved 31 July 2013.
  8. ^ Gordon Rayner and Hayley Dixon (26 November 2013). "Nigella Lawson allegedly took drugs every day for a decade, court told". The Daily Telegraph. Retrieved 28 November 2013.
  9. ^ a b c Booth, Robert (26 November 2013). "Nigella Lawson took cocaine and other drugs every day for years, court told". The Guardian. Retrieved 27 November 2013.
  10. ^ a b c Gordon Rayner "Nigella Lawson allegedly took drugs every day for a decade, court told", telegraph.co.uk, 26 November 2013
  11. ^ a b Kunal Dutta "Nigella Lawson took cocaine, cannabis and prescription drugs every day for 10 years, court hears", The Independent, 26 November 2013
  12. ^ Gordon Rayner "Nigella Lawson's assistants spent £685,000 on Charles Saatchi's credit cards, court hears", telegraph, 27 November 2013
  13. ^ "The Grillo Sisters". Janes Solicitors. 7 January 2014. Retrieved 7 January 2014.
  14. ^ Robert Booth "Nigella Lawson's personal assistants spent £685,000 in 'greedy free-for-all'", 27 November 2013
  15. ^ Gordon Rayner "Nigella Lawson is a 'habitual criminal’, court hears", telegraph.co.uk, 27 November 2013
  16. ^ "Nigella Lawson and Charles Saatchi marriage 'secrecy'", BBC News, 27 November 2013
  17. ^ http://www.cnn.com/2013/11/29/world/europe/uk-nigella-lawson-court/
  18. ^ "'No proof' that Nigella Lawson ever took drugs, Charles Saatchi admits". 2013-11-29.
  19. ^ "Saatchi 'bereft' that email accusing Nigella Lawson of drug use went public". The Guardian. 2013-11-29.
  20. ^ Nigella Lawson facing Scotland Yard drugs investigation
  21. ^ 'Career suicide' to testify against Charles Saatchi, ex-aide tells court
  22. ^ Gordon Rayner "David Cameron criticised by judge for 'Team Nigella' intervention in trial". Daily Telegraph 12 December 2013
  23. ^ "Saatchi V Rahul Gajjar". Casemine. Casemine. Check date values in: |date= (help)
  24. ^ "Charles Saatchi braced himself for high court battle against Finance Chief". Tatler. Retrieved 18 December 2019.
  25. ^ Sky news

External links[edit]