Prince Andrew has reached an out-of-court settlement with Virginia Giuffre that will end her abuse claim against him – but will leave questions about his own conduct hanging in the air.
Ms Giuffre had brought a case of battery and intentional infliction of emotional distress against the Prince.
It was claimed she was trafficked by convicted sex offender Jeffrey Epstein and others to Andrew, who was alleged to have sexually abused her when she was under the age of 18. Court documents referred to three separate occasions in which Ms Giuffre accused him of sexual misconduct.
She had claimed the Prince had sex with her against her will at Ghislaine Maxwell’s London home.
She also alleged he forced her to engage in sex acts against her will at Epstein’s mansion on the Upper East Side of Manhattan.
And he was also alleged to have sexually abused Giuffre during a visit to Epstein’s private island, Little St James.
Terms of the settlement have not been disclosed but it appears to involve substantial sums of money including a large donation to Ms Giuffre’s charity in support of victims’ rights. This amount may be revealed when the charity’s annual reports are released.
He has stated that he accepts that she suffered, both as an established victim of abuse and as a result of unfair public attacks.
The Prince has not admitted any guilt or apologised for any of his behaviour.
But he has acknowledged that Jeffrey Epstein trafficked “countless” young girls over many years and has said he “regrets” his association with that man.
To demonstrate this regret, he has pledged to support the fight against the evils of sex trafficking, and to support its victims.
There appears to be nothing in the settlement – no non-disclosure agreement – stopping Ms Giuffre from publishing her claims in the future.
International lawyers have said they think Andrew’s lawyers were left with little option other than to make a deal, considering the weakness of his legal position and fears over his performance in the witness stand.
They have said the settlement may cost him at least £10 million, in line with settlements of previous cases involving wealthy individuals.
The agreement raises more questions than it answers.
Most obviously, Prince Andrew’s personal reputation has not just been dragged through, but has arguably been drowned in the mud – as has that of the UK’s Royal Family, by association.
Adverse publicity has already led to Andrew being stripped of all his royal patronages and military affiliations, with the Queen’s approval. He has also agreed to stop using the style His Royal Highness in an official capacity.
It had been feared that a court case would overshadow the Queen’s platinum jubilee celebrations this year, with details of the Prince’s personal life examined and his denials of ever meeting Ms Giuffre challenged.
If an agreement could have been reached, why did this not happen earlier?
Is it because the Prince was facing the prospect of sitting for a deposition – giving sworn evidence – at which he would have been questioned under oath by Ms Giuffre’s legal team? Did he have reason to fear the possibility that information may be uncovered that he doesn’t want to see the light of day?
Who is paying? It has been alleged that the Queen herself has put up some of the money for Andrew’s defence, and his representatives have declined to comment on the source of funds for the donation. Ultimately, are the citizens of the UK paying to whitewash this privileged man’s name?
Does Prince Andrew think this will all go away now, and he can resume work as a member of the Royal Family as if the court case didn’t happen? Commentators are already saying that this is unlikely – meaning his future is still in doubt.
York MP Rachael Maskell has called for him to stop using his title as the Duke of York, to show respect for the people of the city.
And concern has been raised over the possibility of him appearing alongside the rest of the Royal Family at the Duke of Edinburgh’s memorial service next month; with vindication impossible if a trial does not happen, it is not known whether the claims of sexual assault were accurate – and this may overshadow the occasion if Andrew is allowed to participate.
Perhaps the Prince hoped that, by reaching a settlement, he would be able to draw a line under these accusations and move on.
In fact, it seems he has merely extended the controversy well into the future.
Have YOU donated to my crowdfunding appeal, raising funds to fight false libel claims by TV celebrities who should know better? These court cases cost a lot of money so every penny will help ensure that wealth doesn’t beat justice.
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