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Paul Thomas is a Weekend Herald columnist

Paul Thomas: No victim, but let's have a trial anyway

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It was helpful of Scotland Yard to open an investigation into Nigella Lawson's courtroom admissions of drug-taking since it confirmed the suspicion that it was the Domestic Goddess who was on trial in the Isleworth Crown Court (and in the Court of Public Opinion), rather than her former personal assistants.

A Yard spokesman said officers would "examine the implications" of Lawson's testimony and seek advice from the Crown Prosecution Service on whether to throw the book at her.

It could be a lengthy process as there are a few implications to examine. For instance, there's Lawson's claim that, while her ex-husband and now tormentor Charles Saatchi is anti-drugs, a big bag of cocaine would routinely materialise at his advertising agency's Friday nights drinks session.

I would have thought the investigators would be interested in knowing who supplied the cocaine, who consumed it, who paid for it and whether Saatchi knew his company was transformed into a coke den every Friday night.

Given his well-founded reputation for being a control freak, it would be remarkable if he was oblivious to what was going on under his nose, so to speak.

As an aside, you have to wonder why someone who loathes drugs would work in an industry that's renowned for its partiality to recreational drugs.

Next under the interrogation lamp could be Lawson's 19-year-old daughter Cosima, with whom she smoked cannabis. The inquisition won't be able to call to account Lawson's other partner in crime, her first husband, John Diamond, since he placed himself beyond the long arm of the law by the simple if drastic expedient of dying.

And if this examination is to be - and be seen to be - rigorous, surely the acknowledgement of hard drug use to the point of addiction by rock stars such as Eric Clapton must also be scrutinised.

After all, if Lawson can incriminate herself by giving evidence in a case in which she wasn't the defendant, why on earth should the detailed, freely delivered accounts of sustained drug use provided by the likes of Keith Richards and Pete Townshend be treated any differently?

It's worth reiterating that in Lawson's case the only thing the Yard has to go on is her admission of minimal drug use, nearly all of which took place 15 years ago with the terminally ill Diamond.

Despite the relentless campaign to portray Lawson as "Highella" the hopeless coke fiend, neither the former PAs' attack dog lawyers nor the media, which obligingly recycled damaging off-the-record briefings provided by the public relations consultant retained by Saatchi and the defendants, were able to provide a single instance of anyone seeing her take drugs.

Beyond the headlines generated by this tawdry and disturbing affair there were some oddball extrapolations, such as a Daily Telegraph piece asserting that the revelations put paid to Lawson's hopes of taking America by storm.

Having spelled out at some length why her American target audience simply wouldn't abide a gastro-celebrity with a history of drug-taking, the writer pointed out that Lawson's co-host Anthony Bourdain, an established star in the US foodie firmament, is "ironically" a reformed junkie.

It's hard to conceive of a better example of unconscious irony than a writer using the term while undermining his entire premise.

There are two ways of looking at Lawson's admissions. One is that she committed a victimless crime, arguably a contradiction in terms, and Scotland Yard could and should concern itself with crimes which have victims, of which there's never a shortage.

Then there's the mindset that "the law is the law is the law". Even if the law is an ass, it must be enforced without fear or favour.

Those who hold this view might care to ponder the case of mathematician Alan Turing, one of the code breakers who cracked the Enigma code, Nazi Germany's cipher system, saving thousands of lives and shortening World War II.

In 1952, Turing was convicted of gross indecency. (Homosexuality was then a criminal offence.) He accepted a form of chemical castration as an alternative to prison but lost his security clearance, meaning he could no longer work in intelligence.

Two years later, aged 41, he committed suicide.

This week, Turing was pardoned by the British Government. Describing him as "pivotal" to breaking the Enigma code, Justice Secretary Chris Grayling said his later life was "overshadowed by his conviction for homosexual activity, a sentence we would now consider unjust and discriminatory".

Grayling could have said that Turing's life was destroyed over a victimless crime and we are now a more tolerant, civilised, enlightened society. But then again ...

- NZ Herald

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