Tuesday 25 July 2017

Cumberbatch backs friend in sex abuse memoir case

Concert pianist James Rhodes (right) leaves the Supreme Court in London with actor Benedict Cumberbatch after winning the right to publish an autobiographical book giving detail of sexual abuse he suffered as a child. Photo: PA
Concert pianist James Rhodes (right) leaves the Supreme Court in London with actor Benedict Cumberbatch after winning the right to publish an autobiographical book giving detail of sexual abuse he suffered as a child. Photo: PA
Concert pianist James Rhodes (centre) leaves the Supreme Court in London with his wife Hattie Chamberlin and actor Benedict Cumberbatch after winning the right to publish an autobiographical book .

Estelle Sirborn in London

A British concert pianist whose autobiography was banned because it contained harrowing details of childhood rape that could psychologically harm his son will be allowed to publish the book after the Supreme Court overturned the ban yesterday.

The memoir by James Rhodes had been banned by a lower court after his ex-wife argued that reading it would damage their 11-year-old son, who has been diagnosed with Asperger's.

Free speech activists denounced this as a dangerous precedent that would help others obtain bans on things they found offensive or distressing.

Rhodes (40) was raped by a boxing coach at his school over several years, starting when he was six, and struggled for years with depression, addiction and self-harm before forging a successful career in classical music and television.

"A person who has suffered in the way that (Rhodes) has suffered ... has the right to tell the world about it. And there is a corresponding public interest in others being able to listen to his life story in all its searing detail," the Supreme Court said.

Rhodes said his book would signal to other victims of child sex abuse that they should feel no shame and that it was possible to overcome the trauma.

"I was told not to tell when I was a child. Children are told not to tell. The message is 'tell someone'. This is a victory for victims," Rhodes told the BBC, adding that his son would not read the book.

The memoir, titled 'Instrumental', will be published at the end of the month. Film star Benedict Cumberbatch was at court to support Rhodes, an old friend.

"This man ... was held in silence then, unable to tell a world that turned a blind eye to him during that horrific period of his life," Cumberbatch told the BBC.

"And then in adult life, through searing, humbling honesty ... was then trying to express exactly what he'd experienced ... To re-experience that veil of silence, that inability to be able to shout for help, is appalling."

The Court of Appeal's injunction, issued in August 2014, had also banned Rhodes from talking publicly about the graphic content of his book and had prevented media from naming him or his publisher, Canongate, in reports about the case.

The ban was to be in place until the issue came to a full trial, but Rhodes appealed to the Supreme Court to overturn the ban. Rhodes had also received support from writers Tom Stoppard, Irish author Colm Toibin, David Hard and Stephen Fry, who signed an earlier letter calling the injunction a "significant threat to freedom of expression."

Irish Independent

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