Charles Saatchi insisted he had accepted a police caution for assaulting his wife, Nigella Lawson, by clutching her throat because he wanted to prevent the altercation from “hanging over” the couple and their children.
The millionaire art collector was interviewed at a central London police station on Monday afternoon before admitting to an assault during the incident outside a fashionable London restaurant which he had previously sought to play down as a “playful tiff”.
Women’s rights groups raised concerns about the violent row and the use of cautions in domestic violence cases. According to ACPO guidelines, cautions are “rarely appropriate” in domestic abuse cases but can be offered where there evidence it is a first offence or the incident cannot be investigated further.
Mr Saatchi, 70, and his television chef wife have been at the centre of media attention after a Sunday newspaper published pictures of him placing his hand around her throat on four occasions during an argument on the terrace of Scott’s seafood restaurant in Mayfair.
The former advertising mogul, who had been celebrating his 70th birthday, said on Monday that he had exerted “no grip” on Ms Lawson, 53, who has made no statement on the incident. She has left the couple’s £12m home in nearby Chelsea with her two children.
Mr Saatchi told the Evening Standard that he had decided to accept the caution, which involves an individual recognising that an offence has taken place, to draw a line under the episode.
He said: “Although Nigella made no complaint, I volunteered to go to Charing Cross station and take a police caution after a discussion with my lawyer because I thought it was better than the alternative, of this hanging over all of us for months.”
The art dealer had previously admitted the pictures published by the Sunday People were “horrific” but insisted he had been “attempting to emphasise my point” during an argument about their children.
Refuge, the domestic violence charity, said it could not comment on Mr Saatchi’s case but said it was worried that cautions sent a mixed message in abuse cases.
Sandra Horley, the charity’s chief executive, said: “We have concerns about cautioning perpetrators of domestic violence as it does not act as an effective deterrent. Research shows that domestic violence is rarely a one off. We should never ignore that first slap or shove because over time violence can escalate in frequency and severity.”