UK gov’t challenged over handling of Lawson case

LONDON (AP) — A British lawmaker questioned Thursday whether police may have treated Nigella Lawson’s husband too leniently after he admitted assaulting the celebrity chef in a restaurant.

Opposition Labour Party lawmaker Sandra Osborne asked in the House of Commons if there is one rule for the rich and famous, and another rule for everyone else.

She was referring to advertising mogul Charles Saatchi, who earlier this week was given a police “caution” after admitting assault. Saatchi, 70, contacted police after newspapers published photos of him grasping his wife’s throat during an argument.

He will not face further charges or penalties.

Osborne said it sends the wrong message to allow someone to receive only a caution after admitting assault. Under British law, a caution can be given to someone who admits a minor offense. It carries no penalty, but it can be used as evidence of character flaws if a person is later prosecuted for a different crime.

Prosecutors’ guidelines indicate cautions are appropriate for some assaults.

Home Office minister Jeremy Browne rejected the assertion that the rich and famous receive preferential treatment.

Lawson, 53, has not commented on the incident. In photos published by The Sun newspaper Thursday, she was shown not to be wearing her wedding band. Her publicist said earlier that she had left the family home with her children, but did not indicate if that was permanent.

Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg also became enmeshed in the furor surrounding the incident by declining to say if he would have intervened if he had witnessed the argument between Saatchi and Lawson, which took place at the pricey Scott’s restaurant in central London.

Clegg said he couldn’t be sure, because he did not have all the facts, and said it was possible that the confrontation was just “a fleeting thing.”

That drew complaints from anti-violence campaigners who said he should have spoken out more strongly.

“It was a clear case of domestic violence,” said Holly Dustin, director of the End Violence Against Women coalition. “There was enough in the papers and in the news we’ve seen and the fact that Saatchi accepted guilt by accepting a caution to show that this was an act of violence against a woman.”

Clegg said later he condemns all forms of domestic violence.

Complaints about alleged lenient treatment also surfaced in the House of Lords on Thursday.

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