Prince Andrew’s announcement that he’s willing to go to trial means the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee will be ‘overshadowed’, a top lawyer has said.
In what is meant to be a year of celebration for the monarchy, the civil lawsuit in the US could instead lead to questions about the ‘relevancy’ of the institution and have a ‘crippling’ effect.
Media lawyer Mark Stephens predicted the Duke of York would have to give evidence and face difficult questioning, whether in person or via video link.
The possibility of Andrew settling remains, he said, but any trial would be expected by the end of the year.
Virginia Giuffre alleges she was forced to have sex with the Queen’s son when she was 17 and the victim of a trafficking ring orchestrated by two of the royals’ associates, Jeffrey Epstein and Ghislaine Maxwell.
Prince Andrew strenuously denies the allegations made against him.
Mr Stephens, who represented James Hewitt when claims about an affair with Princess Diana came to light, said: ‘I can’t conceive that the royal family will allow him to run this case and overshadow the Platinum Jubilee.
‘It’s going to spark debate about the relevancy and appropriateness of the royal family and we’ve already seen that they moved very fast to strip him of his titles and that debate abated but the more detail that comes out the more there’s going to be a problem for the wider royal family.’
Commenting on lurid details that may emerge from the trial, Mr Stephens said: ‘For example, questions will be asked of Virginia Giuffre about the prince’s body, any marks, his performance, what positions were adopted – every detail that is conceivable to ask and then that will be put to Andrew.’
Despite releasing a statement last night indicating willingness to proceed to a jury trial, Mr Stephens predicted the timing of any trial may well still lead Andrew to settle.
He said: ‘The reason we think he’s got to settle is because of the timing.
‘Essentially this case is going to take up the rest of this year and if it takes up the rest of this year, that’s the whole of his mother’s Platinum Jubilee.
‘The only thing he could have done to stop this getting worse is to have pulled the case and stopped it in some way so there was no alternative news.
‘This is going to be crippling if he really is dead set on running this to a trial.’
The duke has officially responded to the allegations via an 11-page document filed in court yesterday, rejecting all the claims brought by his accuser.
While the documents make clear he is willing to go to trial, the submission also includes 11 arguments why the case should be dismissed.
They include that Ms Giuffre’s claims are ‘barred by the doctrine of consent’, by ‘her own wrongful conduct’ and by claiming she is ineligible to sue in New York because she is resident in Australia.
The documents also indicate he will deny being close friends with Ghislaine Maxwell, through whom he met Epstein. He is known to have socialised with both over a number of years.
Andrew’s lawyers set out a series of defences ‘without assuming the burden of proof, and expressly denying any and all wrongdoing’.
The documents were submitted a fortnight after a US judge dismissed Andrew’s attempts to have the case thrown out of court.
Responding to the development, his accuser’s lawyer David Boies said: ‘We look forward to confronting Prince Andrew with his denials and attempts to blame Ms Giuffre for her own abuse at his deposition and at trial.’
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