May 20, 2015 / 11:50 AM / in 3 years

UK Supreme Court overturns ban on abused pianist's memoir

LONDON (Reuters) - 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 on Wednesday.

People walk out of the United Kingdom's new Supreme Court in Westminster, central London September 14, 2009. REUTERS/Andrew Winning

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 repeatedly 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 on May 28.

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 and throw out the case without trial, which is what it did.

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