Is their marriage our business? No. But Charles Saatchi's row with Nigella Lawson is definitely news

They are celebrities. And when a celebrity behaves badly, it's always a story

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The Independent Online

Readers of i have been spared most of the grisly details - and the gruesome pictures - of the multi-millionaire art collector Charles Saatchi throttling his wife, Nigella Lawson, outside a Mayfair restaurant at the weekend. You should also be thankful that you have been spared the phoney moralising.

A story like this brings out the very worst in newspapers. I read yesterday that the coverage of this incident was merely to shine a light on the very serious subject of domestic violence. Heaven forbid that newspapers were taking a simple voyeuristic delight in reprinting a sequence of  long lens shots of two famous people having a proper old barney. No, there's an important issue at stake here.

And thus Scotland Yard have to get involved. I thought the job of the Met - when not framing hapless politicians - was to catch criminals and keep us safe. No formal complaint had been received about Mr Saatchi's behaviour, but nevertheless the grandiosely-titled Community Safety Unit launched an investigation following the publication of the pictures, and Mr Saatchi attended a police station to accept a caution. Thank heavens for that! At last, we can walk without fear along the pavements of Mayfair again. We should be deeply grateful that the forces of law and order are protecting us from a 70-year-old with an attitude problem.

Then there's the opportunists and rent-a-quote merchants, desperate to parade their confected outrage to anyone who'll listen. Mr Saatchi has dismissed the incident as a “playful tiff” while admitting that the pictures didn't look good. I should say so, Charles. Quite rightly, he has not complained about the photographs themselves.

Mr Saatchi is famously reclusive, although this is a very different thing from being private. He may not turn up at parties - even ones at which he is the host - but he has gone into print more than once unveiling his innermost thoughts, desires and ideas. This is not the action of a man who wants to stay firmly out of the public gaze. The subtitle of one of his tomes is “Life's too short for patience and virtue”, and, on the occasion of his 70th birthday - enough to make any man with a modicum of vanity exasperated and depressed - he seems to have not just been talking the talk.

I think there's no case to answer about whether the couple's privacy has been invaded: for one thing, the pavement tables outside Scott's constitute a public place, and also they've had their picture taken so many times while partaking of the seafood platter that they must have been aware that their actions would be captured on camera.

A more pertinent question is whether this is in fact news, so important that it occupies the front pages of national newspapers. Let's just be honest: there is not a wider truth being exposed here, unless that truth is about the state of the Saatchi-Lawson marriage (which is none of our business anyway). But, like it or not, we live in a celebrity culture, and these are serious celebrities. And when they behave badly in public, and there are pictures as evidence, it is of wider interest. It may not be journalism, but it is news.