MILLIONAIRE art collector Charles Saatchi would have been taken to court if he had grabbed his wife Nigella Lawson’s throat at a restaurant in Scotland, the police chief in charge of tackling domestic violence north of the Border has said.
Chief Superintendent Bob Hamilton, head of the licensing and violence reduction division for Police Scotland, said officers in Scotland would have acted swiftly to arrest and charge Saatchi over the offence and bring him to court the next day. His comments follow criticism of the Metropolitan Police after the force initially insisted there would be no investigation into the incident, which took place in front of diners at Scott’s in London’s Mayfair.
Police later issued a caution, which requires an admission of guilt but is effectively only a warning, despite photographs showing the incident taking place.
Hamilton said: “We don’t look at this as a minor issue, we look at it as a serious issue. We wouldn’t warn anyone over domestic abuse [a police warning is the closest thing Scotland has to a caution].
“If we can evidence it – and a picture of someone putting their hands round someone else’s neck is clear evidence – I would expect officers to make an arrest.”
Meanwhile, Labour leader Ed Miliband and UK government minister Alistair Burt both said they would have intervened had they witnessed the assault. Miliband said: “I thought they were horrifying pictures.
“Honestly, if you are passing by something like that happening – our duty is to intervene.
“If I had been in that situation, passing by in those circumstances, the right thing to do is to go up to somebody involved in that and say, ‘What’s going on?’”
Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg came under fire last week for suggesting that the incident might have been “just a fleeting thing”.
A spokesman for Lawson has confirmed she left the family home with son, Bruno, 17, last Sunday, but refused to say if the move was permanent.
The couple married in 2003 and have been living with her son and daughter to the journalist John Diamond, who died of cancer in 2001, and Saatchi’s daughter from a previous marriage.
While domestic violence is still a serious problem north of the Border, with almost 60,000 incidents recorded in 2011-12, a series of new laws is credited with improving the response here including the newly-announced Criminal Justice Bill. It is aimed at abolishing the requirement for corroboration, which some regard as an obstacle to prosecution for crimes such as rape and domestic abuse where the victim is often the only witness.
Scotland has also pioneered specialist domestic abuse courts, which are designed to speed up the judicial process.