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US bars Nigella over drug confession

April 3: Nigella Lawson, the television chef, could be forced to undergo a medical examination — including blood tests for illegal drugs — to obtain a visa for the US, lawyers have said.

Lawson was prevented from boarding a flight to Los Angeles on Sunday because of an earlier court confession that she took drugs.

Charlotte Slocombe, a US attorney and British solicitor for the London-based law firm Fragomen, said Lawson was likely to be required to see a doctor appointed by the US embassy as part of a new application for a visa.

“Given the history, she will most likely have to be seen by a physician who will ask about her drug habits,” said Slocombe.

“Blood tests are almost certain to be requested. There is no doctor-patient confidentiality — all the results go straight back to the embassy.”

Slocombe said the celebrity also faced the possibility of a visa being denied because of the drug-taking admissions.

Lawson, 54, would then have to go through a further lengthy bureaucratic process to persuade the authorities that her drug confessions were no longer relevant.

The star made her confession under oath during a trial last year that she had snorted cocaine and smoked cannabis in front of her children. Despite a public controversy, Scotland Yard decided not to act over her confession but the US authorities appear to have taken a tougher stance.

Lawson was travelling alone when she checked in at Heathrow’s Terminal Five on Sunday morning to catch a direct British Airways flight to LA. According to eyewitnesses, she checked in and went through security checks before being informed that she would not be allowed to board the aircraft.

The star was forced to return to the first class check-in to collect the luggage that she had planned to stow in the hold.

It is thought that the airline had been told by US authorities not to allow her to travel to California where she would have been refused entry. Before her Heathrow humiliation, Lawson had posted on Twitter in the early hours of Sunday that she was “packing for my holiday”. Her entry included a picture of a sun hat and some Colman’s mustard.

Lawson is said to be a regular visitor to the US for pleasure and work. The US authorities are well known for their tough line on drug users.

Britons who want to travel to America under the “visa waiver” programme must answer several questions about drug habits and other convictions.

However, US officials also have broader powers to refuse applications to people who have made “admissions to the elements of the offence”.

Susan McFadden, a US attorney of London-based Gudeon and McFadden, said: “If the doctor finds the applicant is a drug abuser than that person is ineligible for a visa. This can be set aside only if the consular official recommends that the ineligibility for a visa should be waived. this is something that has to be decided by the Department of Homeland Security in Washington and the process can take six or seven months.”

Airlines are required to supply US 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.

 
 
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