Prince Andrew: ‘Hard to see route to public role’ says Witchell
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Judge Lewis A Kaplan’s decision that the case can proceed is a huge blow to the Duke of York. Buckingham Palace declined to comment on today’s development, which comes just two days after it unveiled the full programme of events for the Queen’s historic Platinum Jubilee.
The palace said: “We would not comment on what is an ongoing legal matter.”
Virginia Giuffre is suing the Queen’s son for allegedly sexually assaulting her when she was a teenager, which he denies.
Andrew’s 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 counter-charges or as to the intention of the parties in entering into the 2009 Agreement.”
Outlining his reasons for denying the motion, Judge Kaplan said the court was not able at this stage to consider the Duke’s efforts to cast doubt on Ms Giuffre’s claims or whether he was covered by the settlement agreement, suggesting these were issues for a trial.
He said: “The 2009 Agreement cannot be said to demonstrate, clearly and unambiguously, the parties intended the instrument ‘directly’, ‘primarily’, or ‘substantially’, to benefit Prince Andrew.”
Andrew could pursue an out-of-court, and potentially multimillion-pound, settlement.
But there have been suggestions Ms Giuffre may not be prepared to accept a deal.
Media lawyer Mark Stephens said: “Andrew has got no good options now. He can’t make things better.”
He told the BBC: “Essentially, I think he’s either going to have to engage in the trial process or he’s going to have to settle and that may well be his least worst option.”
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The Queen’s second son could ignore the case, meaning by default there would be a finding against him, or he could fight it out, meaning he would have to give a deposition under oath and the sexual assault allegations would be explored in open court.
The development comes as 2022 is meant to be a period of celebration for the Royal Family as the Queen reaches the milestone of 70 years on the throne.
However, the royals now face the prospect of Andrew’s accuser giving a detailed account of her allegations in court in New York this autumn.
Ms Giuffre claims she was trafficked by Epstein to have sex with the Duke when she was aged 17 and a minor under US law.
She is seeking unspecified damages, but there is speculation the sum could be in the millions of dollars.
The royal has vehemently denied the allegations.
The settlement between Ms Giuffre and Epstein, made public earlier this month, detailed how Andrew’s accuser had received a 500,000 US dollar (£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”.
Andrew’s reputation has already been irreparably tarnished by his friendship with Epstein, a convicted sex offender.
He withdrew from public duties in the wake of his car crash BBC Newsnight interview in 2019.
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