Oh no! Looks like it’s bye-bye America for Nigella Lawson.
Nigella Lawson has been banned from the U.S. because of her court confession for taking cocaine. The celebrity chef was stopped from boarding a flight from Heathrow to Los Angeles, the Daily Mail revealed today.
Her television career in the U.S. – she is a judge on talent show The Taste – is now in peril.
The 54-year-old chef was forced to confess under oath during a trial last year the fact that she had snorted cocaine seven times and smoked cannabis in front of her children.
Although Scotland Yard did not act over her confession, the U.S. authorities are taking a tougher stance.
Lawson arrived alone at Heathrow’s Terminal Five on Sunday morning to catch a direct British Airways flight to Los Angeles. She is said to have checked in and passed security before being told that she could not board her plane and had to return to the first class check-in to arrange to collect her hold luggage.
“She didn’t seem to say much, but she did not look happy,” said an onlooker. “She could not get on the flight so she had to turn around and leave.”
Lawson is believed to have tried to enter the U.S. by registering online for permission to travel and confirming that she had not been arrested or convicted of offences including taking illegal drugs. But the U.S. can also decide to bar foreigners who have committed drugs offences without ever being charged. Would-be travellers can apply to have the ban lifted, but this can take months.
The specific grounds on which Lawson was barred entry to the U.S. have not been confirmed. And it is not known if she was stopped at passport control or at the departure gate where passports are often scanned.
She is now expected to engage with lawyers to ensure she can travel freely to America. The U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s customs and border protection department said it could not comment on individual cases.
But a spokesman said foreigners who had admitted committing drugs offences in the U.S. or another country were deemed to be “inadmissible”.
“In general, an alien found inadmissible will need a waiver of inadmissibility,” he added. “Depending on the basis of their refusal they may be eligible to apply in advance of travel for a temporary waiver of inadmissibility. The waiver application process can be lengthy.”
Airlines are required to provide U.S. security officials in advance with details about all passengers on flights to America so they can be screened against Washington’s ‘no fly list’ of suspects linked to terrorism.
The carriers must also check that passengers have a valid visa or other authorisation to enter the U.S. before they take off from the U.K.
Weeks after her cocaine confession, Miss Lawson was allowed to fly into America on New Year’s Day to film a live interview promoting the second series of The Taste USA.
The show was broadcast in January and February, having been filmed before the TV chef’s admission of drug-taking.
But American border protection officers appear to have hardened their position since January.
Steven Heller, a US immigration lawyer based in Lewes, East Sussex, said her celebrity status as the ‘Domestic Goddess’ may have counted against her.
“I strongly doubt that if someone who was not particularly notable made an admission in court proceedings about past drug use, it would come up,” he said.
Since the start of this year, the American authorities have enforced a stricter interpretation of the law on excluding people who admit an offence, he added.
Heller is confident that Miss Lawson will eventually be able to get a visa to travel to the US, although the process could take some time.
“I’m sure she can get a waiver. The typical wait time is about 20 to 25 weeks but you can get it done in a matter of days. You need to demonstrate a need for it to be handled quickly,” he said.
Being blocked from America caps a torrid 12 months for Lawson, who has endured a very public divorce from her former husband Charles Saatchi.