Demanding Justice for Giovanni Pernice: A Witch-Hunt that Shames the Sisterhood by Amanda Platell

Demanding Justice for Giovanni Pernice: A Witch-Hunt that Shames the Sisterhood by Amanda Platell

In what kind of unjust world can a man simply be ‘cancelled’ over unproven allegations that he caused a female colleague to suffer PTSD and reduced other women to tears?

How can a high-profile celebrity lose the job he loved – and for which he was adored by fans – as a result of unsubstantiated claims of ‘bullying’ and ‘horrendous behaviour’?

What exactly was so horrendous about his behaviour? Of course, the accuser refuses to tell us, so we’re just left with an ugly slur.

Yes, we can only be talking about the trial by media of Strictly Come Dancing’s star dancer Giovanni Pernice. And to think this pernicious witch-hunt is taking place in the supposedly innocent world of ballroom dancing.

Demanding Justice for Giovanni Pernice: A Witch-Hunt that Shames the Sisterhood by Amanda Platell

It was Sherlock actress Amanda Abbington who started the ball rolling. Last October she withdrew from the show on medical grounds

The dancer, 33, and his girlfriend Molly Brown recently returned from a trip to Dubai and Portugal amid furore over his 'militant' training style

The dancer, 33, and his girlfriend Molly Brown recently returned from a trip to Dubai and Portugal amid furore over his ‘militant’ training style

Enough already. I am among the countless Strictly fans demanding Justice For Gio.

It was Sherlock actress Amanda Abbington who got the ball rolling against Giovanni. In October she withdrew from Strictly on medical grounds, which it later emerged was post-traumatic stress disorder, saying on Instagram: ‘I did not come to this decision easily or lightly but for personal reasons I am unable to continue.’

Tellingly, she did not pay tribute to Giovanni, who was, of course, her dance partner.

Only in the past six weeks has she made a formal complaint about him to the BBC. After meeting with two other distressed Strictly contestants, the trio decided to pursue their claims together against him and the BBC ‘with vigour’ through the law firm Carter-Ruck.

Again, I ask, what claims? And if they were serious enough to cause Abbington PTSD, why didn’t she and the other contestants take them to the BBC at the time?

I was delighted to learn yesterday that Giovanni has hit back, vowing he ‘won’t be cancelled’ by what he terms ‘spurious and unfounded allegations’. And that he fully expects ‘to clear his name’ and has employed the services of another big law firm, Schillings, to help him do so.

According to a source close to him, the only substantive allegation is that he stepped on someone’s toes, which of course, they point out, is ‘an occupational hazard dancing professionally or at a wedding’.

Could it be that his partners couldn’t cope with the fact he is – as he claims – ’a perfectionist, 100 percent’ whose only aim was to make his dancers ‘look the best they can on a Saturday night’?

Whatever the case, let battle commence. If he has behaved so badly, been a Paso Doble demon, some kind of Mambo monster, then why don’t his accusers come out and say exactly what he did, rather than attempt to destroy his career through vicious backstage whisperings.

Frankly, I’m ashamed on behalf of the sisterhood. The damaging briefings have all come from women, beginning after Abbington’s dramatic departure in week five of partnering Gio.

As many who have taken to social media defending Gio have pointed out, perhaps Abbington was already stressed when she entered Strictly. She had divorced her long-term partner, the actor Martin Freeman, who has found love with another woman, and had earlier declared herself bankrupt when faced with a £120,000 tax bill.

Maybe Amanda was not in the right place to take part in Strictly’s gruelling daily training sessions with Gio, the hardest taskmaster who turns ugly dancing ducklings into graceful swans.

Perhaps the responsibility lies with the BBC which surely has duty of care not to allow celebs to enter the ballroom if they are ‘fragile’.

Giovanni has been on Strictly since 2015, with never a whisper about any unacceptable behaviour – no commentary except to say what a brilliant dancer he is, with an unerring desire to win.

Who knows what Amanda and Co’s lawyers will actually accuse him of. Like him, as of this moment we have absolutely no idea.

All I do know about is my own ballroom journey with Giovanni. For me the most sublime instant of Strictly’s nearly 20 years was in 2022 when he danced with the little-known EastEnders actress Rose Ayling-Ellis, who is deaf.

In order to allow us to appreciate her experience of their dance, Gio had choreographed the dance so that the music stopped halfway through, and the couple danced in silence ‘so people could understand Rose’s world’. There wasn’t a dry eye in living rooms across the land when Giovanni signalled in sign language to Rose, ‘thank you’ and she became a national treasure.

Bafta gave the performance its award for the ‘Must-See Moment’ on TV that year.

But now, even Rose – who won the glitterball with Gio – seems to have turned on him. An unnamed source has said: ‘She of course believes what others (women) are saying, but is trying not to get involved, she won’t speak about it publicly.’

This is the woman who told Hello! Magazine of her magical experience with Gio. ‘I started off finding dancing very confusing. Giovanni has been incredible,’ she said.

Tellingly, when Ms Abbington quit Strictly she did not pay tribute to Giovanni who was, of course, her dance partner.

 Tellingly, when Ms Abbington quit Strictly she did not pay tribute to Giovanni who was, of course, her dance partner.

For me the most sublime instant of Strictly's nearly 20 years was when the little-known EastEnders actress Rose Ayling-Ellis, who is deaf, won the glitterball with him

For me the most sublime instant of Strictly’s nearly 20 years was when the little-known EastEnders actress Rose Ayling-Ellis, who is deaf, won the glitterball with him

‘If we were together, I could follow him. If he left me alone, it was much harder for me. He had to arrange the choreography so that I could see him all the time.’

She praised Giovanni for taking ‘a leap of faith’ with a deaf dancer. She ‘always knew he would catch me if I fell’.

‘A leap of faith, what a perfect way to sum up our partnership’ she gushed on Instagram. ‘Trust is super important’.

Instead of repaying that trust, she has chosen to stay silent.

It is appalling that his accusers are acting as judge and jury in this ugly spat which threatens to shatter the glitterball for good.

Public opinion is firmly behind Gio as the Justice For Gio campaign shows only too clearly.

And I am proud to be one of his many sequin-loving supporters.

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