Saturday, 21 December 2013

A foolish debacle

If there's any moral to draw from the Saatchi/ Lawson/ Grillo case, it's this - taking people to court isn't very wise. It can cause more harm than good and blacken your own reputation more than the person in the dock.

What exactly was gained by accusing the Grillo sisters of fraud? Elisabetta and Francesca have done well. They were cleared of fraud, there were no damaging claims about them except that they spent money rather freely, and several papers are now offering them large sums for their stories.

Charles Saatchi and Nigella Lawson on the other hand have not done so well. Saatchi was painted as a bad-tempered tyrant who terrorised his wife, the Grillos and his employees. Nigella was painted as a habitual drug user who was often "off her head", incapable of running the household properly, and addicted to pricey designer clothes.

None of these claims were substantiated, but they will stick in people's minds and be seen as facts even if they're half-truths or total lies. Charles and Nigella will forever be seen as an ill-matched couple constantly sniping at each other and prone to eccentric behaviour.

You do have to wonder why a court case was ever seen as the answer to the Grillos' lavish spending and why a simpler and more discreet solution couldn't be found. Like giving them a strict monthly spending limit. Like restricting their spending to certain items. Like taking away their credit cards altogether. Anything rather than drag them through the courts, with the inevitable media feeding frenzy and smear campaign that was bound to follow.

Not to mention the massive legal bills that just add to the huge sums spent by the Grillos. Good money after bad, you might say.

If you ask me, it's not the law that's an ass so much as those foolish people who put too much faith in it.

Pic: Elisabetta and Francesca Grillo


  1. I can't think how the CPS ever let this one was never going to stand up given the financial arrangments of that household.

    I wonder if they (Saatchi/Lawson) will go ahead with the civil trial now where the burden of proof is less strict.

  2. Helen: Indeed, spending patterns seemed to be completely out of control and barely monitored, so how could you distinguish between fraud and mere lavish spending? Or between authorised and unauthorised purchases?

  3. I did not follow this, so I don't have anything to say.

    I read a lot about your life in 2007, and enjoyed your and your partner remind me a little of my brother and his partner.

  4. They did it
    So did nigella
    It's a load of bollocks though

  5. Susie: Fair enough, I didn't think it was attracting much interest over there. I think Nigella is doing her first TV show in the States very shortly.

    Ooh, you've been trawling the archives! Glad you're enjoying my eccentric scribblings!

    John: We shall find out more presently when the Grillo sisters confess all to the media.

  6. Susie, I was meaning to trawl YOUR archives but I've been very busy the last few days. It'll be my Christmas treat!

  7. what i really want to see from you, nick, is to imagine yourself as Nigella or Charles or possibly the Grillos. Write a post about why you did what you did, explain your emotions in the decision making process as well as the logic you used to justify your actions.

  8. Oh, hallo, you! Giving me a hard time again? I couldn't begin to imagine myself as any of them, their lives are so far removed from my own and those of most ordinary folk. Money sloshing around like morning rain, £5000 designer dresses, piles of coke (allegedly), astronomical credit card bills. It's another world, Kylie. The decision-making and logic would be set in an obscenely wealthy context I have little knowledge of. All I can say is that Jenny and I have a very positive and constructive relationship very different from the Saatchi-Lawson mess.

  9. my kids are regularly asked to do this type of exercise in history. they call it an "empathy task"

    i think it's a very instructive technique

  10. Kylie: I like the idea. As you say, it could be very instructive - if you can feel any connection with the people you're trying to empathise with.

    I just find it very hard to identify with, say, Nigella Lawson when she spends in five minutes what it would take me a year to earn. I could maybe identify with the Grillo sisters who found themselves a nice little niche and got used to splashing money around because nobody seemed to care how much they were spending. I think I could do that.

  11. These wealthy imbeciles and their financial/druggie/irresponsible lifestyles don't engage me in the slightest.

    Like News of the World fodder.

    Nothing admirable in throwing all this money around when the rates of poverty everywhere have never been worse.


  12. www: But what engaged me was the decision to take the Grillo sisters to court. Not only a sledgehammer to crack a nut, but potentially hugely damaging to their employers' reputations. Except that 98% of the public support Nigella, who has probably ended up with an enhanced reputation rather than the opposite.

    As you say, the contrast with the millions of people struggling to put food on the table is pretty sickening.

  13. Actually, Nick, that this has been a publicity coup for Nigella. She has come out with a hugely enhanced media profile (no such thing as bad publicity, remember) and there is now zero chance of anyone missing her new show - everyone's talking about it. She has also made Saatchi look an idiot, and her political and journalistic friends and family (Dominic and Nigel Lawson are her brother and dad, so she is well in the circles of power) have stuck up for her. Some have gone the extra mile in drumming up opinion in her favour. Did you notice that her ex boyfriend G. Robertson QC did a very sympathetic article in the Guardian yesterday aboutthe legal aspects, don't think he declared his relationship. It was a journalist who coined the "team Nigella" hashtag on Twitter. As for Cameron putting his oar in - well, what do you think? I think it is not impossible that some people owe Nigella and her family favours.

    You are right, she didn't have to drag the Grillos through court. One of them collapsed with the strain, didn't she? I do not think you and I are alone in wondering why precisely the Grillos were involved, and I wonder if we will ever find out for sure.

    To change the subject, I hope you and Jenny have a Happy Christmas! :)

  14. Jenny: It HAS been a publicity coup for Nigella, you're right. Indeed, she has plenty of journo pals to support her. But Cameron was amazingly unaware of the contempt of court rules when he voiced his glowing approval for her.

    Again, we might find out more about the Grillos' role in all this when they spill the beans to the media.

    And a happy Christmas to you and yours too!

  15. Once again, it might be my suspicious little mind but I don't think someone who has risen to PM can really be unaware of the contempt of court rules which even I know about. (If so, then God help us!)

  16. Jenny: You would think he'd know about contempt of court. But he has a habit of mouthing off without really thinking what he's saying....

  17. Hear Hear!! Actually I lost interest after the first news item about the case.

  18. Bonsaimum: I was absolutely riveted by all the details of this incredibly wealthy and incredibly dysfunctional household.

  19. Viva the legal profession. I really regret not having become a lawyer.

  20. Ramana: A nice little earner. Northern Ireland lawyers earned £94 million in legal aid fees last year - with one barrister earning over £1 million.

  21. You say 'a nice little' earner, Nick, in response to Ramana. However, I'd say bloody hard earned money considering all the small print a lawyer not only has to read but digest. Lawyers are born not made. A bit like accountants. Either you have it [the mentality] or you don't.

    Have to say, and how satisfying it is to agree with you and your assessment for once: I don't get it either why those two sisters were brought to court. The money they spent was chicken feed to the household.There is a bigger agenda out there. And I shall be damned if I know what it is. However, and this is bad news:I now look at my two Nigella cookery books with a little disgust. I might make a few notes and then chuck the rest

    Hope your turkey didn't fly the roost before you and Jenny had a chance to roast it.


  22. Ursula: Reasonable fees, fair enough, but £1 million a year? Jenny has to use her brain just as much (as an academic) but only gets a fraction of that.

    Since you've already bought your Nigella cookbooks, I don't think chucking them will bother anybody.

    No turkey for us, we're vegetarians - as you should have gathered by now!

  23. The actual case seemed to get lost in the crosshairs of Saatchi and Lawson's divorce battle. I have sympathy for Nigella, because she wasn't on trial but became the focus of the press attention. It has been ugly for all concerned, even the Grillo sisters who are now hawking every little detail of life in the Saatchi household to any tabloid that will pay. In the end, for all parties, it has come down to cold, hard cash.

  24. 746books: True, cold hard cash seems to be at the bottom of it all. And also I think a desire by Charles Saatchi to take revenge, to teach the "over-spending" Grillo sisters a lesson. Except that it all backfired badly.