The latest moves by Prince Andrew's lawyers have been labelled a delaying tactic by Virginia Giuffre's representatives, ITV News Royal Editor Chris Ship reports
Prince Andrew is extremely frustrated by lawyers who have told him to remain silent ahead of Monday’s court hearing over sexual abuse claims, but he will take their advice and continue to say nothing in public this week.
Last month, his accuser, Virginia Giuffre, filed a lawsuit against the Duke of York and her legal team say they have now served the papers on the Royal. On Monday, a judge in New York will hear the latest developments in the case and will rule on whether he thinks the papers have been properly served under an agreement between the US and UK governments.
Last week, it was revealed that a legal courier was turned away by police officers at Prince Andrew’s residence in Windsor on a first attempt, made on August 26. Court papers show that the “deponent” with the papers was told he could not serve them at Royal Lodge in Windsor Great Park and he reports that “staff has already been primed not to allow anyone access onto the property to serve court process”. But on August 27, a second attempt was made and the papers were left with a Metropolitan Police Officer who said they would be passed to Prince Andrew’s legal team. The Prince is not currently at Royal Lodge, his official residence where he lives with his ex-wife Sarah Ferguson. He is staying with the Queen on the Balmoral Estate in Aberdeenshire for the second time this summer.
The Duke was seen arriving with the Duchess of York and some newspapers have also published pictures of him in some of the wooden huts on the estate. Ms Giuffre's case can only progress after the papers have been served in person - a longstanding procedure set out in the Hague Convention. On Monday, a judge, sitting remotely, will have to decide if the papers left at the gates of Royal Lodge do satisfy the need for them to be handed to Prince Andrew “in person”. Prince Andrew will be in Balmoral when, at 9pm UK time (4pm in New York), the hearing takes place in a courtroom.
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David Boies, Ms Giuffre's lawyer, and his team will attempt to convince the judge that they have served the papers on the Prince. In US law, a plaintiff must serve the complaint upon the defendant within 120 days of it being filed. Virginia Giuffre filed the lawsuit on August 9. Prince Andrew's London lawyers, Blackfords, have been notably silent since the news of the lawsuit broke. Ms Giuffre is suing the Royal alleging that he sexually abused and raped her on a number of occasions including at the homes of the sex offender Jeffrey Epstein in New York and on his private Caribbean island, and at the London home of Epstein's former colleague Ghislaine Maxwell.
Prince Andrew has strongly denied any wrongdoing, and has previously said he does not recall ever meeting Virginia Giuffre, who used to be called Virgina Roberts. Despite the obvious damage to Prince Andrew's reputation from his stonewalling - that policy will not change this week. His lawyers have instructed him, and those closest to him, to keep quiet and refuse any request to respond to developments. The lawsuit - a civil case - is a separate legal development to the criminal case in the US - being led by the FBI.
Investigators are looking into potential criminality following the claims made by the many victims of Jeffrey Epstein - who killed himself after being arrested in 2019. If a judge accepts Prince Andrew has had the papers served on him – the clock will start ticking for his lawyers. They must now decide whether to contest Ms Giuffre's lawsuit, or refuse to engage with it, or come to an out of court arrangement. None of the options are very attractive for the Prince. There have been reports the Prince is in a "bouyant" mood but we understand that is far from the case. He is apparently exasperated by the situation and by the need to keep out of sight but is following the advice of his lawyers. The claims continue to damage his reputation and also that of the Royal Family – given he is currently staying with the Queen.