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The Duke of York… in the dock?
Sensemaker audio

The Duke of York… in the dock?

The Duke of York… in the dock?

When Virginia Giuffre was under the age of 18, she claims Prince Andrew forced her to have sex with him. He’s always denied it. But her lawyer is now convinced the case will come to court. Is he right?


Transcript:

Claudia, narrating:

Hi, I’m Claudia – and this is Sensemaker.

One story every day to make sense of the world.

Today, are we any closer to seeing the Duke of York in the dock?

***

“A spokesman for Prince Andrew today declined to comment after a woman who claims she was brought to the UK as a teenager to have sex with him filed a lawsuit alleging he sexually abused her.”

News report

In New York… on Monday… a woman called Virginia Giuffre filed a civil case against Prince Andrew. 

She’s accused him of forcing her to have sex with him – while she was still under 18 – in London, New York City and on a private island. Prince Andrew has denied ever having sex with her.

There’s only one single photo of the pair together – in an encounter which Prince Andrew claims he does not remember.

“I have no recollection of ever meeting this lady, none whatsoever.” 

Prince Andrew BBC interview

But Virginia Giuffre’s lawyer, a man who once represented Harvey Weinstein, is confident in the case coming to court.

“If he thumbs his nose at the courts the way he’s thumbed his nose at the victims of Jeffrey Epstein’s sex trafficking, I think he will find that is not a desirable outcome.”

Virginia Giuffre’s lawyer

Is he right to be bullish? Can Virginia Giuffre really get Prince Andrew to court?

In July 2019 US prosecutors charged Jeffrey Epstein, a wealthy and very well connected financier, with sex trafficking.

A month later he was found dead in his jail cell.

And a few months after that, his friend Prince Andrew sat down to talk to the BBC to clear his own name after swirling rumours and allegations.

He’d first been accused of having sex with a minor, Virginia Giuffre, back in 2014. 

Virginia Giuffre had met Jeffrey Epstein’s lover, Ghislaine Maxwell, while she was working at Donald Trump’s Mar-a-Lago club twenty years ago. 

Through Maxwell, she met Epstein, and through Epstein she met Prince Andrew. 

It was then, she claims, that Prince Andrew… a man who is ninth in line to the British throne… sexually abused her.

“It did not last very long, the whole procedure. It was disgusting.”

Virginia Giuffre interview

As for the interview Prince Andrew did with the BBC?

Well, it was a disaster.

“There’s a slight problem with the sweating because I have a peculiar medical condition which is that I don’t sweat, or I didn’t sweat at the time.”

“On that particular day that we now understand is the date – the 10th of March – I was at home. I was with the children. I’d taken Beatrice to a Pizza Express in Woking for a party.”

Prince Andrew BBC interview

You could hardly have written it. 

But even though it went down badly in the court of public opinion, when it came to an actual court… Prince Andrew was no closer to being near one.

If we believe Virginia’s Giuffre lawyer, however, that’s going to change.

“Prince Andrew is now going to have to speak. He can’t ignore the court process. He can ignore me, he can ignore my client, he can ignore other victims and their lawyers, but he can’t ignore the court.”

Virginia Giuffre’s lawyer

Is he right though?

“New York’s new law dramatically expands the statute of limitations for victims of child sexual abuse to file suits or seek criminal prosecution against their abusers, whether institutional or individuals.”

News report

There’s a reason the lawsuit was filed now of all times.

In 2019, the New York governor Andrew Cuomo – who has just resigned amid a sexual harassment scandal – signed into law the Child Victims Act. 

It allows alleged victims of historic sexual abuse… when they were children… to seek legal redress even when the normal amount of time someone has to bring a lawsuit has run out. And the thing is… that law expires tomorrow [Saturday]. 

But just because Virginia Giuffre has filed a lawsuit doesn’t mean that Prince Andrew has to board a plane to New York.

Because it’s a civil case not a criminal one, Prince Andrew can’t be extradited. 

That still doesn’t make it easy for Prince Andrew though.

If he ignores the courts, he might be forced to pay damages to Virginia Giuffre by way of something called default judgement – not a good look at all, even if it falls short of an admission of guilt.

And if he agrees to answer questions, he risks saying something that might spur a criminal case against him, a much more serious prospect than a civil case.

So that leaves one obvious option open to him: to claim that the US court doesn’t have any jurisdiction over him. 

That has the advantage of buying Prince Andrew some time. It’s just that it it might not rid him of the lawsuit altogether. It would probably bring about a very public legal battle, too.

Since the Jeffrey Epstein scandal exploded into public view back in 2019, Prince Andrew has been safely hidden away in English palaces. 

And for now it seems like he’s happy enough to flit between them. On Tuesday he left his Windsor home to meet his mother, the Queen, hours before a US summons was sent there.

But the truth is that Virginia Giuffre, now a 38-year-old campaigner living in Australia, has got a little closer to drawing him out. 

In a royal family that’s all about reputation, it’s unclear just how much longer Prince Andrew can hide… whilst still strenuously denying the allegations.

Today’s story was written and produced by Xavier Greenwood.