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Prince Andrew is being sued by Virginia Giuffre – how did we get here?


Virginia Giuffre alleges she was sexually assaulted by Prince Andrew who is the Duke of York and the Queen’s third child.

She says the abuse occurred when she was trafficked while underage to Prince Andrew by paedophile Jeffrey Epstein, who ended his life in his jail cell in 2019, and Epstein’s associate Ghislaine Maxwell, who was convicted of sex trafficking in December.

Giuffre, 38, alleges the abuse happened at Maxwell’s London flat, on a Caribbean island owned by Epstein and at his Manhattan mansion in New York – where state laws introduced in 2019 allow victims of historical sexual abuse to launch civil cases against their perpetrators.

It’s these laws that Giuffre, an American who now lives in Australia with her family, has used to pursue the duke, alleging that he battered and intentionally inflicted emotional distress on her.

Andrew, 61, denies the allegations but he did not deploy this defence as his main argument in trying recently to stop Giuffre’s lawsuit from going ahead. Instead, his lawyers attacked her credibility and motivation and, chiefly, claimed that a financial settlement struck between Epstein and Giuffre in 2009 shielded him from any Epstein-related lawsuits.

In a decision made public this week, US District Judge Lewis Kaplan in Manhattan disagreed and gave Giuffre the green light to pursue her case against the Duke.

So, what are his options now?

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First, what does battery mean?

Giuffre alleges that, as well as being “on call for Epstein for sexual purposes”, she was “lent out to other powerful men” including Andrew, read the 44-page opinion from Kaplan on January 11.

She says on one occasion, the prince abused her at Epstein’s apartment in Manhattan. “The allegation that the plaintiff was forced to sit on the defendant’s lap while he touched her is sufficient to state a battery claim under New York law, regardless of which part of her body the defendant ultimately is alleged to have touched,” the judge said.

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“[Bodily] contact is offensive if it is wrongful under all the circumstances, which certainly is a reasonable inference from Ms Giuffre’s allegations.”

The opinion also states that Giuffre alleges Epstein, Maxwell and Andrew compelled her to engage in sexual acts “by express or implied threat” and she “feared death or physical injury to herself or another, among other repercussions, if she disobeyed”. She says she continues to suffer “significant emotional and psychological distress and harm” as a result.

Can the prince just ignore the matter?

Andrew has now been stripped of his royal patronages and military titles, leaving him to defend the case as a “private citizen”. On Thursday, both Buckingham Palace and the duke’s lawyers were making no comment about his next move. However, legal experts say he has no good options. Already, the London Telegraph reported, the process would be moving towards the discovery stage, with the duke having to submit requested documents, such as phone logs, emails or diaries, and depositions (oral testimonies) due mid-July.

“He’s reputationally toast at the moment,” says Mark Stephens, an international lawyer and partner at London firm Howard Kennedy. “He’s in an appalling position; he was in a bad position before this case, but he’s in a worse position now as a result of this application.”

“Judge Lewis Kaplan has thrown a judicial hand grenade into the middle of this and the royal family.”

The prince could appeal the ruling by Kaplan. However, this would lead to further delays and there is no guarantee that a higher court would accept his case, given the strength of Kaplan’s ruling.

Or he could ignore the matter – refuse to provide depositions, not turn up at the hearing, simply not engage. This is called defaulting, and it would lead to an automatic judgment against him and an order that he pay damages, which would not be a finding about any facts but would still be disastrous for his reputation. Still, Stephens says this “nuclear option” could be desirable in the sense that any default money order is not enforceable in Britain and Andrew has no assets in the United States where the case is being heard.

Defaulting would also save the prince from a trial in which he is cross-examined on camera by David Boies, considered one of the United States’ most formidable trial lawyers.

What about a settlement?

Settlements are a common enough path for people facing civil lawsuits. A settlement is, in essence, a deal between the parties to end litigation and, by definition, they are out of court. They can bind the parties to any terms they can agree to: an apology, payment of money, non-disclosure conditions, and so on.

For Andrew, a settlement would put an end to the litigation and so stop any further revelations during a trial –but Giuffre may not agree to it, preferring her day in court and the opportunity for vindication.

“I think it’s very important to Virginia Giuffre that this matter be resolved in a way that vindicates her,” Boies told Newsnight following the Manhattan ruling. “A purely financial settlement is not anything that I think she’s interested in,” he said.

What if the matter were to go to trial?

Because this is a civil lawsuit, if it went to trial it would be up to Giuffre’s team to prove the allegations were true on the balance of probabilities rather than beyond a reasonable doubt, which is the tougher burden of proof required in criminal cases.

But this would be extremely risky for Andrew as it would involve him providing a deposition and would very likely expose him to being questioned by Boies. Given the prince’s catastrophic performance in a television interview with the BBC’s Emily Maitlis in 2019,hours of cross-examination could be an even greater public relations disaster.

“The only thing that would make that worse,” says Stephens, “is him being cross-examined publicly, under oath, about the medical condition which precludes him from sweating and the specific details about the allegations which she [Giuffre] makes against him.”

Andrew has denied being with Giuffre at a nightclub in London on a night she says she was forced to have sex with him, saying he was at a pizza restaurant in Woking, England, for his daughter’s birthday; and he denies Giuffre’s claims that he sweated profusely all over her at the club. He has said an overdose of adrenaline sustained in the Falklands War meant he did not sweat. But when asked to provide documents about his claims, the prince said he had no such documents in his possession.

A trial would also likely expose further members of the royal family to cross-examination, including possibly his former wife, Sarah, the Duchess of York.

And a trial would likely begin later in the year. Even if his case turned out to be watertight, the spectacle of royals appearing in a US court would make global headlines for weeks, overshadowing the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee celebrations. She marks 70 years of service on February 6 with commemorations planned all year.



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