Prince Andrew faces civil sex case trial after US judge dismisses bid to throw out case

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·5-min read
Prince Andrew faces civil sex case trial after US judge dismisses bid to throw out case
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  • Prince Andrew, Duke of York
    Prince Andrew, Duke of York
    Second son and third child of Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh (born 1960)
  • Jeffrey Epstein
    American financier
  • Virginia Giuffre
    Alleged victim of the underage sex trafficking ring operated by Jeffrey Epstein

The Duke of York will be tried over allegations he sexually assaulted Virginia Giuffre when she was underage after a US judge ruled her civil lawsuit can proceed.

Judge Lewis A Kaplan's decision is a huge blow for Prince Andrew, whose lawyer argued earlier this month the case should be thrown out as Ms Giuffre had waived her right to pursue the duke by signing a confidential settlement with disgraced financier Jeffrey Epstein.

In the conclusion of his written ruling, Judge Kaplan said: "For the foregoing reasons, defendant's motion to dismiss the complaint or for a more definite statement is denied in all respects.

"Given the court's limited task of ruling on this motion, nothing in this opinion or previously in these proceedings properly may be construed as indicating a view with respect to the truth of the charges or countercharges or as to the intention of the parties in entering into the 2009 Agreement."

Andrew had pinned part of his hopes for dismissing the case on the 2009 settlement which Ms Guiffre signed with Epstein, which mentioned “royalty” but did not refer to the Duke by name. He argued he could be considered under the deal as a “potential defendant”, but the judge said the language was “ambiguous”.

This year is a period of celebration for the royal family as it marks the Queen's Platinum Jubilee, but the monarch and senior royals face the prospect of the Duke's accuser giving a detailed account of her allegations in open court this autumn.

The institution of the monarchy is likely to be damaged by Ms Giuffre's civil sex case, which will be heard in New York and is expected to make headlines across the globe.

Andrew's reputation has already been irreparably tarnished by his friendship with Epstein, a convicted sex offender, and he withdrew from public duties soon after his disastrous 2019 Newsnight interview that failed to draw a line under his relationship with the disgraced financier.

 (BBC)
(BBC)

Ms Giuffre is suing the Queen's son for allegedly sexually assaulting her when she was a teenager.

She is seeking unspecified damages, but there is speculation the sum could be in the millions of dollars.

Ms Giuffre claims she was trafficked by Epstein to have sex with Andrew when she was aged 17 and a minor under US law.

The duke has vehemently denied the allegations and his legal team has argued from the lawsuit's first hearing that the case is "baseless".

There has already been speculation the Duke may be encouraged to reach an agreement with his accuser in a bid to avoid the trial being held.

If the hearing does go ahead it is not clear whether Andrew will give evidence in person, via a video link or decline to participate.

The settlement between Ms Giuffre and Epstein, made public earlier this month, detailed how Andrew's accuser had received a $500,000 (£370,000) payout in 2009 and agreed to "release, acquit, satisfy, and forever discharge" the disgraced financier and "any other person or entity who could have been included as a potential defendant".

Andrew B Brettler, the duke's lawyer, had argued during a virtual hearing his client was a "potential defendant" as defined by the agreement and so the case "should be dismissed".

The lawyer said a potential defendant would be someone Ms Giuffre knew she had "claims against at the time that she filed the lawsuit" in 2009 against Epstein, whose former girlfriend Ghislaine Maxwell was convicted on December 29 of procuring teenage girls for him.

In his counter-argument David Boies, Ms Giuffre's lawyer, said only the parties of the settlement agreement - Epstein and Ms Giuffre and their associates - could benefit from it, and not a "third party" such as Andrew.

He added the Duke would not be a "potential defendant" as referred to in the settlement, as the 2009 lawsuit made no allegation the Duke had trafficked individuals for illegal sexual activity.

The lawyer told the hearing, held to hear arguments about dismissing the case: "He was somebody to whom the girls were trafficked - that's a different criteria."

In the ruling, the judge said the 2009 agreement “cannot be said to demonstrate, clearly and unambiguously, that the parties intended the instrument ‘directly’, ‘primarily’ or ‘substantially’ to benefit Prince Andrew.”

Calling the wording of the agreement “ambiguous”, he added: “Independent of whether the release language applies to Prince Andrew, the agreement at a minimum, is ‘reasonably susceptible to more than one interpretation’ on the equally important question of whether this defendant may invoke it.

“As a matter of Florida Law this Court cannot rewrite the 2009 Agreement to give the defendant rights where the agreement does not clearly manifest an intent to create them.”

Judge Kaplan also knocked down Andrew’s claims that the accusations against him are “unintelligible”, “vague”, and “ambiguous”.

He said Ms Guiffre’s claim “alleges discrete incidents of sexual abuse in particular circumstances at three identifiable locations. It identifies to whom it attributes that sexual abuse.”

Ms Giuffre is “very pleased” the duke can be tried over the allegations, her lawyer have said.

David Boies, lawyer for Ms Giuffre, told Sky News: “Virginia is obviously very pleased with the court’s decision.

“It is only one step in the process. It does not resolve the case on the merits.

“It simply rejects certain legal defences that Prince Andrew was putting up to avoid a trial.

“It is an important step and my client is very pleased with that and that evidence will now be taken and very pleased there will now be a judicial determination on the merits of her claims against Prince Andrew.”

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