Nigella trial and Christmas shopping rush make headlines

The acquittal of Nigella Lawson's former personal assistants on fraud charges makes the front pages of most of Saturday's newspapers.

Many devote coverage to the revelations that came out in court about the personal life of the TV cook, who was already in the headlines because of her divorce from art dealer Charles Saatchi.

The Daily Mail, which dedicates 11 pages to the story and carries the front page headline "wrath of the goddess", says "huge questions" now hang over Ms Lawson's career.

A close-up photograph of a solemn Ms Lawson taken before she gave evidence to the court is featured on many front pages including the Independent.

The paper also questions the potential damage to Ms Lawson's career saying the verdict leaves her "reputation in shreds".

The Daily Express believes Ms Lawson may pay a "heavy price" after admitting in court that she had taken cocaine on a handful of occasions in the past and smoked cannabis. It says her career in the US may now be at risk.

But reviewing the papers on the BBC News Channel, former State Department official Colleen Graffy said Ms Lawson retained a lot of "style and panache" and the case did not appear to have hurt her US career where two of her shows are about to be broadcast.

Kate Devlin, political correspondent for the Herald newspaper, agreed, saying "it must have been very difficult to go through the past couple of weeks and just have so much of your private life... raked over in the courts".

She said: "There had been a campaign out to destroy her and her reputation, but that campaign has failed."

'Questions of justice'

Image caption The trial remained in the spotlight for weeks

Ms Lawson's former PAs, Francesca Grillo and her sister Elisabetta, claimed in court that she allowed them to spend £685,000 to cover up her regular cocaine use.

In its front page story, the Daily Telegraph asks whether the "Nigella legacy" is a drugs amnesty for the middle class.

It suggests Scotland Yard risked giving such an impression when it issued a "bizarrely-worded" statement in which it said it would not launch an investigation into Ms Lawson's courtroom admissions.

The Sun examines Ms Lawson's post-verdict statement in which she hit out at her "deeply disturbing" experience in the witness box. It is among a number of papers to reprint her words in full.

Ms Lawson's "furious" response is also the focus in the Daily Mirror which highlights her assertion that the Grillos' claims in court were part of a campaign to shatter her reputation.

But Mirror columnist Alison Phillips says: "The frosted icing cupcake that was Nigella Lawson's life has spectacularly sunk... the trial revealed that far from the soft-focused pictures we'd seen of Nigella's life, the reality was a lot more grubby."

In an editorial, the Times says the case raises broader questions of justice for witnesses.

"Nigella Lawson is angry and it is easy to understand why," it says. "It is surely possible that a way could be found to hear accusations voiced in the course of a trial without prejudicing those proceedings. The justice system has to work for witnesses as well as it works for the accused."

For Roy Greenslade, writing in the Guardian, the media coverage of the trial "leaves an unsavoury taste because it held up all concerned to public mockery".

'Perpetual headache'

Thursday night's ceiling collapse during a performance at the Apollo theatre in the West End of London continues to generate comment.

While acknowledging it was a "freak event", the Independent's deputy arts editor Alice Jones suggests London's theatres were not built to last a century or contend with the demands of modern stage technology.

"What happened at the Apollo is a sad and shocking event, but is also a wake-up call," she writes.

"Budgets must now be redrawn and spending on restoration prioritised. If private investors lack the resources, the government must step in to assist."

The Times chief culture writer Richard Morrison says: "The Victorian and Edwardian theatres are a national glory and a perpetual headache. To watch a show inside these magnificent playhouses... is a cultural pleasure. Yet their age makes maintenance a continuous drain on resources."

In an editorial, the Times says that "listed status, which has been conferred on many of London's playhouses, makes upkeep more complicated. Scope for change is limited, however, by the insistence on original materials and raft techniques that might be more at home in a museum."

'Cameron's gamble'

The Guardian features another story based on documents leaked by former National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden.

In an editorial, the paper says it hopes the latest files - showing targets of the NSA and Britain's GCHQ included an EU commissioner and humanitarian organisations - will encourage the UK to "take the revelations much more seriously than they have done".

"Cameron's biggest EU gamble yet" is the front page headline for the Independent, which says the prime minister has "raised the stakes in his fight to curb immigration" by issuing what it calls an ultimatum linking expansion to tighter migration controls.

According to the paper, "the dramatic move fuelled tensions with other EU nations" and will enrage the leaders of Albania, Serbia, Turkey and Ukraine, which have already started the accession process.

Immigration is also the focus of a Daily Telegraph editorial on government benefit measures which urges ministers to engage "more constructively" with the issues and not "gimmicks".

"What Britain needs is not a knee-jerk reaction or phony rhetoric. It needs a realistic, coherent approach," says the paper.

The BBC comes under fire in several newspapers for allowing radical Islamist preacher Anjem Choudary to comment on the murder of soldier Lee Rigby in Woolwich.

One of his killers was said to be influenced by the Mr Choudary but the Daily Express says it was a "terrible mistake" to allow the preacher time to air his views.

"This offensive windbag actually has very little support in the wider Muslim community," it says. "But the main impact of providing him with a platform was to allow him to pose as a representative voice".

'Panic Saturday'

Image caption Discounting began early this year

The Financial Times reports on what it calls "Britain's tale of two Christmases".

Despite data suggesting stronger spending and faster growth, retailers are reporting scrimping, it says.

Official figures are said to show buoyant consumer spending alongside weakness in employee incomes, declining savings and a yawning gap between resilient imports and weak exports.

Meanwhile, according to the Sun, 13 million people are expected to pack High Streets on "panic Saturday", spending an estimated £2.5bn on gifts and food.

The Guardian says shops are pinning their last-minute hopes on the price cuts. Retail analysts Louise Howarth tells the paper the introduction of US discount day Black Friday at the end of November has helped to create a promotional "mindset" in consumers.

"Retailers may get the sales but their profit margins will have seen an impact," she says.

There is a different type of Christmas worry for the Daily Star, whose front page story warns of a festive "storm flood alert".

Christmas could be ruined by torrential downpours, it says, noting the gloomy forecast came as the holiday getaway began.

A weather warning also makes the front page of the Daily Express, with the paper reporting that bookies have slashed the odds on a white Christmas.

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