Prince Andrew looks to avoid the courtroom and use other means to discredit Ms Giuffre’s story
The Duke of York stenuously denies any wrongdoing but has told friends that a desire to protect the Queen and the wider institution rather than to save his own skin is behind a legal attempt to halt Virginia Giuffre’s civil case against him in New York next week. Many royal insiders believe his only hope of ever convincing the British public of his innocence and regaining his senior royal role is to go up in court and disprove the allegations by Ms Giuffre, who claims she was forced by her late boss Jeffrey Epstein and his disgraced friend Ghislaine Maxwell to sleep with Andrew three times when she was as young as 17.
Victims of Jeffrey Epstein, from left, Sarah Ransome, Virginia Giuffre, and Marijke Chartouni
But the Daily Express understands that Andrew, 61, who stood down temporarily from all his official positions in November 2019 after giving a disastrous interview to BBC Newsnight, thinks he can still make a comeback by avoiding the courtroom and using other means to discredit Ms Giuffre’s story.
Andrew, who is overseeing his team’s legal strategy, also argues that the case the Duchess of Sussex brought against The Mail on Sunday for publishing a letter she sent to her father shows that even if you win in court, you risk causing reputational damage to yourself and the monarchy. Meghan had to apologise for “forgetting” she had cooperated with the authors of a flattering biography and other evidence did not always cast her in a good light.
His lawyer Andrew B Brettler has called for the civil case in New York to be stopped on the grounds that Ms Giuffre, 38, and previously known as Virginia Roberts, no longer lives in Colorado, as her lawsuit suggests, and is “acually domiciled in Australia”.
In documents filed on behalf of Andrew on Tuesday, Mr Brettler also asked for all witness statements in the case to be kept secret even if neither party designated the testimony as confidential. Ms Giuffre’s lawyers have complained about the request and there have been claims that it is unprecedented.
A source close to Andrew said yesterday: “Such a request or offer to keep things confidential is certainly not unprecedented, rather it would be considered standard practice in any high profile case. However, it seems like Ms Giuffre and her lawyers want to try this case in the media instead of a courtroom.”
In another development in the case, the details of a 2009 settlement between Ms Giuffre and Epstein are due to be made public early next week after an earlier ruling. The Duke’s legal team have argued that the settlement releases him and others “from any potential liability” but her lawyers insist that is not so.
Legal experts doubt that the Duke will win his attempts to either stop the case or keep the witness statements secret and, if as expected the trial goes ahead, it is likely that Andrew will be tested on the evidence he gives.
He faces growing pressure after a federal court in New York on Wednesday convicted Maxwell, his former close friend, of recruiting and grooming teenage girls for sex with Epstein between 1994 and 2004. The jury’s decision means the stories of women such as Ms Giuffre have been accepted, even if she hersef did not give evicence in the trial and Andrew was only mentioned fleetingly as someone who accompanied Epstein on trips.
The FBI still wants to talk to Andrew, officially as a witness and not a suspect, about what he saw and what he knows about Epstein, who was found dead in a New York prison cell in 2019 and was ruled to have committed suicide while awaiting a sex trafficking trial.
But despite repeatedly offering to assist any inquiries on either side of the Atlantic, the Duke is still refusing to speak to investigators after accusing the US authorities of breaching an agreement about confidentiality.
After the jury’s decision to convict Maxwell earlier this week, his accuser, Ms Giuffre, said: “I hope that today is not the end but rather another step in justice being served. Maxwell did not act alone. Others must be held accountable. I have faith that they will be.”
Lawyer Linda Bloom, who represents several of Epstein’s victims, said the Maxwell verdict should worry Andrew. “He should be quaking in his boots, she said. “Because this shows that a jury is willing to come back with a guilty verdict even if the accusers are not perfect, as no human being is.”
Gloria Allred, a lawyer who represents 20 accusers of Epstein, said the burden of proof in a civil case such as the one launched by Ms Giuffre was lighter than in a criminal case such as the Maxwell trial but there were still hurdles to surmount. She said: “I anticipate many legal arguments on behalf of Prince Andrew, having to do with jurisdiction, the power of the court and other such issues – so we will have to wait and see if his case ever gets to trial or not.”
Ms Giuffre, who claims she was trafficked when she was still a minor under US law, is seeking unspecified damages in her civil case, but there is speculation the sum could be in the millions of dollars. She is already estimated to have won £7 million in previous legal payouts.
The case threatens to cast a huge shadow over the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee in 2022 and has also prompted questions about why the 95-year-old monarch has not removed her beleagured son from official positions, such as his role as Colonel of the Grenadier Guards, which remain on hold.
His position has proved an embarrassment to the elite regiment but senior officers in the Household Division remain divided over whether he should be asked to stand down permanently. One senior officer has insisted it is the same for anyone accused of offences, unless there is overwhelming evidence against them: “He is innocent until proven guilty.”
But Prince Charles is said to believe his brother Andrew can have no future as a working member of the Royal Famiy representing the monarch and many other courtiers do not believe there is any prospect of the Duke of York ever clearing his name in the court of public opinion.
Dickie Arbiter, a former palace press advisor, said he understood why Andrew was reluctant to go on the witness stand. “He can’t be put on stand. I don’t think he is capable of answering questions, as we saw in the Newsnight interview,” he said.
Responding to the suggestion that Andrew was worried about damaging the wider reputation of the Queen and the monarchy, he said: “He should have thought about that before he became friends with Jeffrey Epstein. I don’t think there is any way back for him.”