Prince Andrew’s legal gambit of agreeing to accuser Virginia Giuffre’s demand for a trial by jury in her sexual abuse lawsuit against him is a legal strategy that could force Giuffre to back down and settle the suit, or it could set the stage for further damage to Britain’s royal family, according to legal experts.
Giuffre, 38, claims Andrew raped her when she was a teenager, according to The New York Times. He has not been charged with any crimes and has denied the accusations.
In her initial complaint, Giuffre — who said she was acting under mental duress and in fear of American financier and convicted sex offender Jeffrey Epstein and his longtime companion Ghislaine Maxwell – claimed she was “on call for Epstein for sexual purposes and was ‘lent out to other powerful men,’” including the prince, according to the Daily Mail.
Giuffre claims she was sexually abused by Andrew in Maxwell’s London home, in Epstein’s New York City mansion, and on Epstein’s private island, Little St. James in the U.S. Virgin Islands. She demanded a jury trial on her accusations.
Giuffre’s lawsuit was filed in New York. Giuffre has requested that a judge award “punitive damages” for the “physical and psychological” injuries she suffered, according to the Daily Mail.
A trial date likely would fall in late 2022, according to The Associated Press.
Last week, Prince Andrew, who has been stripped of his royal titles by Queen Elizabeth II, said he also would like a jury trial.
Legal commentator Joshua Rozenberg said the tactic was much like a dare.
“What you’ve really got here is Prince Andrew saying, ‘Bring it on. You want a jury trial? I want a jury trial. You want to bring these claims? Well, in that case, you have to prove everything that you’re saying, because I’m not going to admit to anything.’”
Will the lawsuit get settled out of court?
Rozenberg told the Daily Mail a settlement remained possible, but “nevertheless the prince is saying that he denies everything.”
Media lawyer Mark Stephens called the dare “classic brinkmanship” that could lower the ultimate amount of a settlement. But it is a gamble, he said, as it could overshadow his mother’s Platinum Jubilee, which celebrates her 70 years on the throne, and risks “bringing down the monarchy.”
“I think he’s buying time for settlement,” Stephens said, noting that events to begin the queen’s Jubilee year will start Feb. 6.
“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,” Stephens said, according to the Daily Mail.
“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.”
Stephens said publicity will damage the institution of the monarchy.
“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 a debate about the relevancy and appropriateness of the royal family. The more detail that comes out, the more there’s going to be a problem for the wider royal family,” Stephens said.
Royal expert Norman Baker, a former member of Parliament, said Andrew’s family would not like what would come out at a trial.
One commentator said this could be posturing without much purpose.
“Perhaps by agreeing to her initial wish of having a jury trial, he (Andrew) is wanting to position himself as having nothing to hide? Perhaps this will force an out-of-court settlement? All of this is speculation, of course, but nothing would surprise me at this stage,” said Kate MacNab, a senior solicitor at Reeds Solicitors in the U.K.
Andrew’s name was mentioned occasionally during Maxwell’s recent sex trafficking trial, according to The New York Times. Maxwell was convicted last month and is awaiting sentencing.
Epstein was found hanged in a Manhattan jail in August 2019 while awaiting trial on sex trafficking charges. The death of Epstein, already a convicted sex offender from another case, was ruled a suicide.