Giovanni Pernice ready to take legal action amid allegations that could harm his career

Giovanni Pernice ready to take legal action amid allegations that could harm his career

Sweetly cupping his brand new Pomeranian puppy in both hands, Giovanni Pernice almost managed to smile as he gazed down at the new addition to his family.

‘Meet Roxy,’ wrote the embattled Strictly dancer’s girlfriend Molly Brown alongside the snap, which was taken this week.

But while that photo may be endearingly tender, emotions behind the scenes Chez Gio are running worryingly high. So much so that friends of Strictly’s longest serving male professional dancer tell me his new pet has nothing short of ‘saved him’.

The dancer has endured several distressing weeks which have seen Strictly, the BBC’s ‘jewel in the crown’ of programming, and he, its most popular male dancer, enmeshed in controversy, accused of causing a female colleague to suffer PTSD and reducing others to tears.

‘Giovanni has been spending all his time with Roxy. He just adores her,’ one friend of the Italian tells me. ‘He is going through a really tough time. The last couple of months have been very difficult for him.

‘His entire world — his career, his livelihood — are hanging in the balance because of some vague claims against him. Roxy, has been a godsend.’

Giovanni Pernice ready to take legal action amid allegations that could harm his career

Former Strictly star Giovanni Pernice, 33, is pictured on his girlfriend’s Instagram account holding their new Pomeranian puppy, Roxy

Molly Brown, 24, takes a snap of the couple while on holiday - when the news that the professional dancer would be leaving the glitzy BBC competition was announced

Molly Brown, 24, takes a snap of the couple while on holiday – when the news that the professional dancer would be leaving the glitzy BBC competition was announced

Indeed, so tense is the mood after Giovanni’s most recent partner on Strictly, actress Amanda Abbington, and two other unnamed women last week instructed notoriously cutthroat lawyers Carter Ruck to commence action against him and the BBC, accusing the dancer of misconduct, that it looks as if Strictly could be submerged in its own MeToo-esque scandal.

An internal inquiry at the BBC is said to be underway after five women who have worked with Giovanni have, seemingly, turned against him.

Yet, much to the star’s frustration, these women have either raised accusations relating to his manner and work ethic that are — says a friend of his — ‘frankly opaque’, or have damned him by keeping an evasive silence when asked if they support him.

Even more upsetting for the 33-year-old dancer, I can reveal, is that he has yet to be contacted by the BBC to give evidence to their inquiry. The only knowledge Giovanni has of any investigation is what he has read in newspapers.

Regardless, I am also told that Giovanni says he will fully co-operate with the inquiry, as well as launching his own legal fightback. Giovanni is now represented by attack dog law firm Schillings, a London-based legal company which has acted for stars such as JK Rowling, Johnny Depp and Ryan Giggs — and has vowed that, whatever it takes, he will not be cancelled. His name, he insists, will be cleared.

His dance partner during last year's series, actress Amanda Abbington, 52, claims to suffer from post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) following her time with Mr Pernice. Her recent legal action against the dancer has led one of his close sources to say: 'It feels like a witch hunt. It feels like he is on trial without a voice'

His dance partner during last year’s series, actress Amanda Abbington, 52, claims to suffer from post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) following her time with Mr Pernice. Her recent legal action against the dancer has led one of his close sources to say: ‘It feels like a witch hunt. It feels like he is on trial without a voice’

If or when he does so, sources say he will ‘most certainly consider options’ of potential action he could take against those who have attacked him.

And it is not just his accusers in his sights: those who know him tell me Giovanni’s legal fightback also signals the start of a war against the BBC, whom he believes have treated him appallingly.

Friends say Giovanni robustly denies any wrongdoing and is said to be ‘baffled’ that the only specific accusation of ‘misconduct’ against him appears to be about him bruising 52-year-old Abbington’s foot, which his lawyer says is ‘an occupational hazard of dancing — professionally or at a wedding’.

‘Gio is confident that the BBC will not find any examples of abusive or threatening behaviour,’ says a source close to him.

‘He has never shied away from the fact that he is a hard taskmaster. He is of the thinking that that is what you need to do to get to the top and he will always, always stand by that.

‘It feels like a witch hunt. It feels like he is on trial without a voice.’

Ms Abbington left midway through the most recent series, citing mental health issues. She has since been joined by two other anonymous women in her legal pursuits against the Italian

Ms Abbington left midway through the most recent series, citing mental health issues. She has since been joined by two other anonymous women in her legal pursuits against the Italian

Indeed, it seems that Abbington — who claimed in January of this year to have suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder after working with Giovanni — has been briefing The Sun newspaper. Yet no other details of Giovanni’s alleged behaviour have emerged.

Abbington’s fellow Strictly contestants, Good Morning Britain’s Ranvir Singh and TV presenter Laura Whitmore, have met with her to discuss their own allegations against Giovanni. These also remain notably undefined.

And earlier this week, his former professional partner Korina Travis, 29, who performed with him at private functions, gave a cryptic statement saying: ‘I’ve known him for years and he has done some horrendous things to me. I will not speak about my experiences with him but I’m glad the world is seeing him for who he truly is.’

Five days later, and Korina is yet to expand on her claims.

The final body blow came when it was claimed that deaf actress Rose Ayling-Ellis, with whom Giovanni lifted the glitter ball as winners in 2021, ‘believed’ the other women. It is unknown whether she, too, has made a complaint.

It’s an unwelcome turn of events for a man who’s so popular with the show’s 9 million viewers that he’s regarded as more of a household name than most of his celebrity partners. ‘Gio is coming out fighting,’ says a friend. ‘He got to the point where enough was enough. It became outrageous to him that these claims could be made against him which absolutely could ruin everything for him, everything he has worked so hard for.

‘He knows that this is a long road, these things take time. But there will be an end point to this and then you have to look at libel, defamation, loss of earnings — they are all very serious issues which could prompt legal action.

‘Anyone who thinks he is going to roll over and take this is very naïve. He fully intends to tell the truth.’

An insider close to Mr Pernice has said: 'Anyone who thinks he is going to roll over and take this is very naïve. He fully intends to tell the truth'

An insider close to Mr Pernice has said: ‘Anyone who thinks he is going to roll over and take this is very naïve. He fully intends to tell the truth’

While he may be angered by the BBC’s treatment of him, Giovanni is said to have several ‘very close friends’ at the Corporation, many of whom have briefed across the media how ‘special’ he is to the show and how important he was due to be, as the show celebrates its 20th birthday this year. They lauded Giovanni winning BAFTA’s moment of the year for his and Rose’s silent dance routine.

However, this fondness for Giovanni could inadvertently help Abbington’s cause. She asked for footage of their rehearsals from last year’s show in November after claiming PTSD, but, say insiders, the BBC laughed her off as a ‘troublemaker’ and refused to acknowledge her. Some suggest that this could amount to a ‘cover up’.

One TV insider even went as far as to tell me: ‘This isn’t just about Amanda, Gio and Strictly. This is now about the BBC. It has become much bigger than just one show, even if it’s the biggest one.’ Team Gio also believe the BBC will find themselves in a precarious position over their ‘duty of care’ to the professional dancer, who is an employee of theirs.

Indeed, these words featured in the on-the-record statement from Schillings when they announced they were working with Giovanni on Wednesday.

Pointedly, the firm said, ‘as with any reality TV show, when decisions are being made, the producers have a duty of care’.

It is here that it appears Giovanni and his team believe they are at their strongest: unlike most other reality shows, Strictly does not have a robust psychological assessment system.

This, say some of Giovanni’s colleagues, leaves professional dancers in a vulnerable position. One said: ‘Imagine you have a celebrity contestant who struggles, and it is the pro who has to cope with that. But what if they don’t have the skills to do that?

‘It is a highly stressful environment… there isn’t the support for the professionals. It is probably fair to say Gio has learned that to his peril.’ This could be worsened by the fact that, in 2021, TV regulator Ofcom recommended Strictly implement robust psychological assessment tests — but the show doesn’t appear to have done so.

As for what the future holds for Giovanni, that rests firmly in the hands of the investigation.

After spending a sunny holiday in Madeira with devoted girlfriend Molly, she has since been pictured wearing an intriguing new gold band on her wedding finger

After spending a sunny holiday in Madeira with devoted girlfriend Molly, she has since been pictured wearing an intriguing new gold band on her wedding finger

After a sunny holiday in Madeira, he was spotted this week on the rainy doorstep of his home — with his devoted girlfriend Molly sporting an intriguing new gold band on her wedding finger.

He’s back to work on Monday, filming a fantasy adventure movie called Man & Witch: The Dance of a Thousand Steps, in which he plays a master of dance.

Other commercial interests include his own fragrance, Vita, and his annual sell-out dance tour.

Next month, he and Strictly judge Anton du Beke will also embark on a string of concerts around the UK, something Giovanni is said to be ‘very excited’ about. Their BBC travel show, Anton & Giovanni’s Adventures in Italy, has been shelved for now.

I’m A Celeb has also been mooted as a big money opportunity — if he clears his name. But would he return to Strictly? ‘Maybe,’ said a friend. ‘There should be no reason why not.’

However, the friend added ominously: ‘A lot of water would have to go under the bridge before he could do that. How upsetting is it to have to say that?’

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