More broadly, it is a right platinum-plated mess. The homely and dignified preparations for the Queen’s platinum jubilee – 70 dutiful years on the throne, complete with special new pudding – have been gatecrashed by a sex case. Bit of a party pooper. Even if he never has to turn up in a courtroom, there are no good options for him – or the institution he is inextricably tied to.
The procedural wrangles are gone, the technicalities have been brushed aside. Judge Kaplan has judged there is a case to answer, has rejected the prince’s lawyers’ interpretation of the 2009 settlement agreement Virginia Roberts Giuffre and Jeffrey Epstein, and things look bleak for the Duke of York.
He is not released as a third party to the Roberts-Epstein agreement from liability. The effect is a “win” for Roberts Giuffre – and she can continue her quest for justice in open court. In that sense, it is a victory for her and other victims.
It leaves the Prince in a weak position, even though he has always vehemently denied the allegations and any wrongdoing. He has three options: first, he can just stonewall and ignore the whole thing. That would mean a finding against him, by default. Disgrace.
Second, he could fight the thing out, make a witness statement and (via his lawyers) assemble his own case. He will have to build a defence to the three key allegations against him, with details about specific dates, travel arrangements, other witness statements and so on.
It doesn’t look that great. If you want to understand why, you need only revisit the BBC Newsnight interview Prince Andrew granted to Emily Maitlis, on the BBC website. It is well worth another watch, because it basically constitutes a clear account of the allegations made against him and his answers to the various details in this civil case – which means a lower burden of proof than in a criminal case, such as the recent one involving Ghisliane Maxwell.
It makes for uneasy viewing, even if you’ve seen it before. Some of his answers still sound absurd. Giuffre claims he took her to a nightclub in London and he perspired all over her, and that they had a sexual relationship. Andrew responded that he couldn’t sweat because of a rush of adrenaline experienced as a helicopter pilot in the Falklands War, and that on the date in question, when she was 17, he was at a Pizza Express in Woking.
So, when Giuffre’s legal team asked Prince Andrew’s lawyers for medical proof that he couldn’t sweat, none was forthcoming; and no eye-witnesses from the Pizza Express in Woking (or any other branch) have claimed to have seen the familiar features of the Queen’s second son and his daughters tucking into the pizzas and dough balls. It seems odd that no one noticed him or took a picture.
There will be doubtless more embarrassments along those lines. Unless he wants to drag himself and the British royal family into even deeper ditches of controversy, the only realistic option for him is, ironically, a settlement agreement.
That would involve lots of money, but that shouldn’t be a problem if his mam is bankrolling him, though he’s repeatedly flogging off his ski chalet. More problematic is any admission of liability.
Indeed, it is sometimes claimed that Giuffre isn’t actually that interested in the cash, but wants to put her side of the story in a proper setting – and have her day in court. Maybe she now wants to do that, even if she might not have wished to before, after the Maxwell case.
If Giufrre does want to push the case to court, then that either means an even more expensive settlement or else he has to fight it and possibly lose it, or ignore it and lose it, but claim he would have won but didn’t want to dignify the case by answering it. Hence: no good options.
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The palace used to have an unfortunate habit of ignoring criticism and problems, hoping they’d just go away. They can’t really do so any longer, at least in this case.
If the Prince of Wales were actually fully in charge of The Firm, you suspect that he wouldn’t want part of his inheritance being a “disgraced” (if he is) younger brother. Spoiling mummy’s platinum jubilee is one thing, but just imagine the scenes at the coronation of King Charles III and Queen Camilla, with the Duke of York skulking around Westminster Abbey.
Without being indelicate about our 95-year-old gracious sovereign, the palace and Prince Charles ought be ina hurry to shut this case down, almost at any cost to Andrew’s personal reputation. Perhaps that unwelcome realisation is dawning upon him.