Prince Andrew to find out 'pretty soon' whether sex abuse civil case will go ahead, says judge

Credit: PA

Prince Andrew will find out "pretty soon" whether the civil sex abuse allegations against him will go to court, a US judge has said.

Judge Lewis A Kaplan on Tuesday heard arguments over a motion to dismiss the civil sex lawsuit brought against the Queen's son by Virginia Giuffre, who claims Jeffrey Epstein trafficked her to have sex with Prince Andrew when she was 17 and a minor under US law.

A lawyer for the Duke of York - who has denied all allegations - argued the claim for damages “is unfair, it is unjust, it should be dismissed".

Prince Andrew’s legal team argued during a video conference that Ms Giuffre waived her right to sue the Duke when she signed a $500,000 (£370,000) settlement agreement with convicted sex offender Epstein in 2009.

Prince Andrew has denied having any past relationship with Virginia Roberts-Giuffre.

The Duke's lawyer, Andrew B Brettler, argued that the confidential agreement - made public on Monday - means Ms Giuffre agreed to “release, acquit, satisfy and forever discharge” disgraced financier Epstein and ended her right to pursue anyone else who could be considered a “potential defendant” or “second party” in the alleged trafficking.

During the hearing there was a legal discussion about the meaning of “potential defendant”, with Mr Brettler arguing that they would be someone Ms Giuffre knew that she had “claims against at the time that she filed the lawsuit” against Epstein, whose former girlfriend Ghislaine Maxwell was convicted last week of procuring teenage girls for him.

The Prince's lawyer said: “It’s unquestionable that Prince Andrew could have been sued in the 2009 Florida action. He was not.

"And therefore he was a 'potential defendant' and a releasee under the 2009 settlement agreement by its unambiguous terms.”

However, Judge Kaplan said "potential" was a phrase that neither he nor the Duke's lawyer could “find any meaning at all” in.

ITV News Royal Editor Chris Ship explains what could happen next for Prince Andrew:

Ms Giuffre’s attorney, David Boies, told the hearing that the Duke would not be a “potential defendant” as referred to in the settlement, as the lawsuit made no allegation Prince Andrew had trafficked individuals for illegal sexual activity. Mr Boies told the hearing: “He was somebody to whom the girls were trafficked, that’s a different criteria.”

The Duke's lawyer also sought to prove that Ms Giuffre's claims of sexual abuse at the hands of Prince Andrew are not specific enough, and urged her to allege "today" what her complaint against him is.

Mr Brettler said: “Ms Giuffre needs to lock herself into a story now… She needs to allege in her complaint against Prince Andrew when he supposedly abused her. "We don't even have a date, a time, a location, other than an apartment... All we know is that she was 17 years old."

Ghislaine Maxwell with Jeffrey Epstein Credit: US Department of Justice/PA

Judge Kaplan said Ms Giuffre "has no obligation" to do so in her complaint and told him: "With all due respect, Mr Brettler, that’s not a dog that’s got a hunt here".

Reading out an allegation in Ms Giuffre’s lawsuit, Judge Kaplan said: "During this encounter, Epstein, Maxwell, and Prince Andrew forced Plaintiff, a child, to have sexual intercourse with Prince Andrew against her will."

Mr Brettler argued Ms Giuffre's complaint needed to include “imminent threat of harm and there is no such allegation in her complaint”.

"We don’t know what the conduct was,” added the duke's lawyer.

Judge Kaplan replied: “It was sexual intercourse. Involuntary sexual intercourse."

"There isn’t any doubt about what that means – at least not since someone else was in the White House," he added in reference to former US president Bill Clinton.

Judge Kaplan told both parties he would make a decision on whether to dismiss the case against the Duke of York shortly.

He told the hearing: “I appreciate the arguments and the passion. You will have a decision pretty soon.”