Whether One Likes Prince Andrew or Not, He's Innocent Until Proven Guilty, Royal Expert Says
With Ghislaine Maxwell's trial having wrapped up, the spotlight has fallen on Prince Andrew, the Duke of York, who used to maintain ties both with Maxwell and convicted sex offender Jeffrey Epstein. How could alleged Epstein victim Virginia Giuffre's civil action against Prince Andrew pan out for the embattled British royal?
The next stage of a civil action brought by Virginia Giuffre (nee Roberts) against Prince Andrew is expected to take place in a federal court in New York on 4 January 2022.
Giuffre on 9 August filed a lawsuit alleging that the Duke of York sexually abused her, then a 17-year old girl, when she was brought by Maxwell and Epstein to London, New York, and the US Virgin Islands. Andrew's legal team is trying to convince US District Judge Lewis Kaplan to throw the case out. Initially, they insisted that Giuffre was suing Andrew "to achieve another payday at his expense and at the expense of those closest to him". Last week, the prince's lawyers alleged that the lawsuit should be thrown out because Andrew's accuser no longer lives in the US. Next Tuesday, Judge Kaplan is due to hear oral arguments on whether to dismiss the lawsuit.
30 December 2021, 13:25 GMT
How Could Maxwell's Verdict Affect the Prince?
to the Associated Press, Maxwell's verdict may pose a challenge to the prince, given an apparent overlap of evidence in his and Maxwell's cases. "You have a criminal court finding now in the US supporting that there was trafficking going on", Chris Scott of Slateford, a London law firm, told the newspaper. "In a sense, it becomes much harder for people to run the angle that this is all made up
when you do have that credibility building up".
Furthermore, unlike a criminal case which requires "proof beyond a reasonable doubt", civil defendants "can be ordered to pay financial damages if they are found responsible based on a preponderance of the evidence", the outlet explains.
"Maxwell's verdict will not predetermine any case, or civil suit against the Duke of York", argues Thomas Mace-Archer-Mills, founder and director of the British Monarchists Society. "The Maxwell verdict is case specific to Ghislaine herself only, and does not indict Prince Andrew, or in fact conclude that he is guilty of anything other than a lapse in judgement with his personal friendships and the company he may have kept, such as with Jeffrey Epstein".
Mace-Archer-Mills emphasises that no guilt can be presumed until the charge has been proved. He suggests that the inclusion of a witness named "Kate" in Maxwell's trial helped Prince Andrew by illustrating that "the prosecution was unable to substantiate the fact that Maxwell provided a young woman for not only Epstein himself, but his friends".
"Without being able to prove that Maxwell provided young women for Epstein's friends, no link could be, or was made, that Maxwell procured young women for any of Epstein's friends which would include Prince Andrew", the royal expert says.
31 December 2021, 06:46 GMT
Giuffre-Epstein Settlement May Shield Prince Andrew
Mace-Archer-Mills has also drawn attention to the fact that US District Judges Lewis Kaplan and Loretta Preska on 29 December ordered that a 2009 settlement agreement between Epstein and Virginia Giuffre be released on or around 3 January.
to Reuters, the prince's attorney, Andrew Brettler, insists that the agreement shields the Duke of York from her lawsuit because it covered "royalty" and was meant to cover all future claims she made about the financier's alleged sex trafficking scheme. For its part, Giuffre's lawyers claim that Andrew's attempt to use the 2009 release shows "how desperate he is to dodge and duck the facts of what he did
If the sealed papers from the settlement do in fact contain this provision, it would release Prince Andrew from any and all legal jeopardy, according to Mace-Archer-Mills.
30 December 2021, 16:35 GMT
Andrew Suffers Huge Reputational Damage
Accusations against the prince started to emerge in March 2011, when the Daily Mail published a photo featuring Andrew with his hand around Virginia's waist.
In 2014, Giuffre made a court filing in Florida claiming that Epstein had offered her to his influential peers, including the Duke of York. However, in April 2015 a federal judge ruled that Giuffre could not join the federal Crime Victims' Rights Act lawsuit, and her affidavit was removed from the case, according
to the Miami Herald. In 2021, US prosecutors decided not to bring charges in connection with Virginia Giuffre during the Maxwell trial either.
30 December 2021, 17:17 GMT
The allegations coupled with Andrew's ties to Epstein and an ill-fated November 2019 interview have inflicted huge reputational damage on him. The Duke of York was forced to retire from his royal duties, while in February 2020 his name was removed from "Pitch at the Palace", a startup-mentoring platform founded by him in 2014.
"Despite being a serving member of Her Majesty's Armed Forces, who saw combat in the Falklands, creating a positive scheme for young people with 'Pitch at the Palace', and all of his other positive attributes, be they charitable or philanthropic, all trace of public confidence and trust has been eroded, supported by the actions of the palace which have helped to cement the public view that he was guilty, despite there being no evidence, or guilty verdict from a trial against him", the royal expert says.
The fact that the public chose to convict and banish Prince Andrew without the facts and without trial speaks volumes about their attitude to the truth, according to the founder of the monarchist society.
"Whether you like [Prince Andrew] or not, respect him or don't, the law, not the public ensures he remains innocent until proven guilty", Mace-Archer-Mills concludes.