The masthead neatly nestled beneath an advert for 'Ultimate Cookbook' (featuring Nigella Lawson) confirms that she has won 'in the court of pubic opinion'. The headline itself tells a tale insofar as what was witnessed at Isleworth Crown Court this week was a forum for trial by media which had, temporarily one hopes, hijacked the criminal prosecution of the Grillo sisters.
What this week's headlines and today's Sunday Times concluding comment have evidenced is that 'the court of public opinion' or 'trial by media' is an accepted and (taking the YouGov poll into account), measurable, forum. Legal and evidential argument over whether the Grillo sisters had spent a few thousand too much on a Gucci handbag or were permitted to do so in the first place went out of the window as the court's and world's media attention focused on the question of whether Nigella was a 'coke-head', or as was claimed, 'habitual drug user'. That the past week or so's legal and PR fees may well have exceeded the sums at issue in the fraud trial is irrelevant, as indeed it should be. But interesting nevertheless as it is on the issue of 'habitual drug use' that the 'prosecution' in the court of public opinion relies, while in Isleworth Crown Court, it is on the same issue of 'habitual drug use', specifically 'turning a blind eye' to it or assisting in 'covering it up' that the defence (in part) appears to be relying on.
So when it is said that whoever and howsoever the allegations of Nigella's drug taking were placed in the public domain could have underestimated the damage it would do, that could turn out to be an understatement. Cupcakes and coke aside, it will be the courts who decide when it comes to the current fraud trial, issues of contempt of court around its hijacking for PR purposes and (though a long shot given the current public opinion scores) any defamation actions arising out of it rather than a YouGov poll.