Prince Andrew sued over Epstein sex abuse claims: What happens next?

Case against former friend of Jeffrey Epstein is a civil one, not a criminal one

Andrew Naughtie
Thursday 12 August 2021 09:41
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Prince Andrew is being sued by Virginia Giuffre for alleged sexual abuse

Prince Andrew, the Duke of York, is being sued in a New York court by a woman who claims he abused her when she was 17 years old – allegedly as part of the sex trafficking activities of Jeffrey Epstein.

The plaintiff, Virginia Giuffre (née Roberts), is one of the most outspoken of Mr Epstein’s victims, and has alleged in numerous interviews and legal actions that she was expected to have sex with numerous men – including some of the wealthiest and best-connected in the world – by Mr Epstein and his sometime girlfriend Ghislaine Maxwell, who is awaiting trial on charges of her own (some of which also relate to Ms Giuffre).

Ms Giuffre claims she was sexually assaulted by the prince at Ms Maxwell’s home in London, and in Epstein’s homes in New York and the US Virgin Islands.

Ms Giuffre has brought her civil case against Prince Andrew under New York’s Child Victims Act, a law that makes it easier to bring claims related to abuse committed years ago. The current window established by the act is set to close on 14 August pending reauthorisation by state lawmakers.

However, while Ms Giuffre has been able to file her complaint in time, it is not clear that the Duke of York will ever appear in court in the US, since the UK does not extradite people to the US for civil cases.

Nonetheless, the case can proceed in his absence, promising a humiliating spectacle which he can do little to stop – and allowing Ms Giuffre’s team to call witnesses to give evidence under oath.

If the court finds in Ms Giuffre’s favour, it can award her damages that the prince would at least theoretically be forced to pay.

The complaint is detailed and shocking. Among its allegations are that the prince “abused plaintiff on separate occasions when she was under the age of 18 years old”, including in London and New York, and on Mr Epstein’s private island in the US Virgin Islands, Little St James.

“During each of the aforementioned incidents,” it reads, “Prince Andrew acted with intent to compel plaintiff’s submission.” In the starkest wording in the document, the prince is accused of knowing Ms Giuffre “was a sex-trafficking victim being forced to engage in sexual acts with him”.

In a statement given when the case was filed, Ms Giuffre said: “I am holding Prince Andrew accountable for what he did to me. The powerful and rich are not exempt from being held responsible for their actions. I hope that other victims will see that it is possible not to live in silence and fear, but to reclaim one’s life by speaking out and demanding justice.”

The prince’s office has declined to comment on the case as yet.

It is well-known that the prince was a friend of Mr Epstein for several years, and that he met with Mr Epstein after the former financier was first convicted. Pictures of the two in Central Park and footage of the duke inside Mr Epstein’s house, both from 2010, prove as much; explaining that particular visit, the prince said in his disastrous BBC interview in 2019 that he “went there with the sole purpose of saying to him that because he had been convicted, it was inappropriate for us to be seen together”.

However, the prince disputes that he ever had sex with Ms Giuffre, or even that he ever met her. Of a photo showing him with his arm around his now-accuser as Ms Maxwell smiles in the background, he told the BBC: “I have absolutely no memory of that photograph ever being taken.”

Additional reporting by Reuters

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