Entertainment Celebrity Royal Prince Andrew ‘likely to try to avoid’ Epstein testimony
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Prince Andrew ‘likely to try to avoid’ Epstein testimony

Prince Andrew
Prince Andrew has denied ever meeting Virginia Giuffre. Photo: Getty
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Prince Andrew is likely to do anything he can to avoid giving evidence in a US lawsuit filed by an Australian woman who alleges that he sexually assaulted her when she was 17, lawyers on both sides of the Atlantic say.

The Duke of York might contest the US court’s jurisdiction, or ignore the civil lawsuit altogether, taking a chance the court might find him in default and order him to pay damages.

No matter which way he goes, though, he will face the constant drumbeat of unsavoury media coverage.

“There’s no good option,” said Albert D’Aquino, a New York lawyer who has defended clients in similar cases.

The prince has repeatedly denied the allegations in the lawsuit, brought by one of convicted sex offender Jeffrey Epstein’s long-time accusers, Virginia Giuffre.

Ms Giuffre, who is sometimes known by her married name of Roberts, was raised in the US but now lives in Cairns.

“I don’t think he will submit to the court’s authority to order him to give a deposition, or to answer questions on which he wishes to demur,” said Mr D’Aquino, a partner at Goldberg Segalla in Buffalo, New York.

“He runs too much risk of self-incrimination, which could then spawn a criminal action against him.”

However the prince decides to respond, the lawsuit filed on Monday is another unwanted story for the Queen, reminding people of her second son’s links to Epstein two years after the convicted sex offender’s death.

The royal family is also still recovering from allegations of racism and insensitivity levelled at them by Prince Harry and his wife, Meghan, earlier this year.

Buckingham Palace tried to move past the story two years ago, forcing Andrew to step away from royal duties after he gave a disastrous TV interview in which he failed to express regret over his relationship with Epstein or offer sympathy for Epstein’s victims.

Lawyers for Ms Giuffre filed the suit in the US District Court for the Southern District of New York, alleging that Epstein forced her to have sex with the prince in 2001, when she was 17.

The suit says she had sexual encounters with Andrew in London, New York and the US Virgin Islands, and that the prince knew she had been trafficked by Epstein.

Ms Giuffre, 37, has made similar allegations in the past, but the lawsuit is the first time she has directly confronted Andrew in court.

Prince Andrew Virginia Roberts
Prince Andrew and a teenage Virginia Roberts in 2001, with Ghislaine Maxwell behind them.

Andrew’s representatives declined to comment on the lawsuit. In a 2019 interview with the BBC, he denied ever meeting Ms Giuffre.

“It didn’t happen,” he said.

“I can absolutely categorically tell you it never happened. I have no recollection of ever meeting this lady, none whatsoever.”

There is a widely published photograph of the pair together, along with Epstein’s alleged madam, Ghislaine Maxwell.

David Boies, Ms Giuffre’s lawyer, said his team tried to open settlement talks with the duke’s lawyers but they were ignored. Because of this, he said, Ms Giuffre was forced to file the lawsuit before the deadline set by New York state law.

There is only a “small chance” Ms Giuffre’s lawsuit will ever be presented to a judge or jury because most civil cases in the US, especially high profile ones, are settled out of court, said Arick Fudali, a lawyer at The Bloom Firm, which has represented some of Epstein’s victims.

The lawsuit does, however, increase pressure to settle the case.

“It certainly puts his name back in the news, back in the international news, back in American news and back associated with Jeffery Epstein,” Mr Fudali told the BBC.

But Mr D’Aquino said a settlement was unlikely at this point.

If the prince had wanted to settle the case, he would have done so before the lawsuit was filed, when it could have been handled privately and kept out of the press, Mr D’Aquino said.

-AAP