Come on Amy Winehouse, get a grip on yourself

The troubled singer has so much going for her – but she's now in serious danger of exhausting all sympathy

There is a moment in the life of every troubled star when public sympathy disappears like coke up a left nostril. Amy Winehouse may just have had hers.

Some time during the last week she crossed a line. On one side, people say: "Oh, poor thing, they're really having a tough time just now." On the other side, they say: "Oh, for God's sake, get a grip!"

Winehouse has just been named one of the richest young musicians in Britain, with an estimated fortune of £10m – but yesterday, the 24-year-old award-winning singer left Holborn police station after spending a night in a cell and being cautioned for common assault "by slapping a man with an open hand".

It was just another setback in the chaotic life of a woman admitted to hospital last year with a reported overdose of heroin, ecstasy, cocaine, ketamine and alcohol – but the setbacks are now eclipsing even her music. "They tried to make me go to rehab, but I said, 'No, no no,'" says her most famous song, and when she first sang it the words sounded defiant. Now they sound tragic. Photographs have shown her looking emaciated, bruised, bloodied, scarred and dazed.

"Amy is just like a teenager who is out of control," said her mother, Janis, yesterday, although she blamed the police for making too much out of the assault. "What Amy has been accused of bears no relation to the way she is being treated and humiliated."

Yesterday there were reports of a stable new boyfriend, and that her husband Blake Fielder-Civil, 25, wants a divorce. "I would welcome it," said her mother. He appeared in court on Thursday on charges of assault and conspiracy to pervert the course of justice, and is currently on remand.

As terrible as it was personally, the past week has been enormously successful on a professional level for Winehouse. On Monday came news she has been nominated for three prestigious Ivor Novello songwriting awards.

Better yet, she is the first artist in the 53-year history of the awards to have two songs simultaneously nominated as the best, musically and lyrically: "Love Is a Losing Game" and "You Know I'm No Good". The prophetic "Rehab" is up for best-selling song.

Friends said she was "chilled out" after recording the theme song for the new James Bond film with producer Mark Ronson. But then came a reported 48-hour booze session in north London pubs.

The latest incident happened outside a bar in the early hours of Wednesday morning, allegedly after a man had tried to hail her a taxi. She went to the police station voluntarily on Friday, but was made to sleep overnight in a cell before answering questions.

Her spokesman said she had "apologised for the incident" and was "looking forward to continuing her work on new music". Which is why the patience of her fans is not yet exhausted: the thrilling voice and sassy songs have not yet vanished.

The comedian Jeremy Hardy says in this newspaper that his friend Humphrey Lyttelton, the jazz player and radio host who died on Friday, had recently become a fan. "It's a shame they never met. He'd have been a good influence on her... but she'd have fallen in love with him, and she's got enough problems on that score." If lovely old Humph had asked her to go to rehab, she might have said yes, yes, yes.