Prince Andrew case: High Court to notify duke of US civil proceedings

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Prince Andrew with Virginia Roberts in 2001Image source, Virginia Roberts
Image caption,
Virginia Giuffre, then Roberts, was pictured with Prince Andrew in London in 2001

The High Court in London will formally contact the Duke of York about allegations of sexual assault filed in a US court.

Lawyers for Virginia Giuffre, who has accused Prince Andrew, requested the High Court contact the prince about the civil case launched in New York.

The prince's lawyers have argued he has not been properly served notice of the case.

Prince Andrew has consistently denied Ms Giuffre's allegations.

His spokeswoman has declined to comment on the latest development.

The Hague Service Convention, a treaty that governs requests between countries for evidence in civil or commercial matters, allows Ms Giuffre's legal team to ask the High Court in London to formally notify Prince Andrew about her civil action.

The High Court had initially rejected their request, citing an issue with the application, but later said: "The lawyers acting for Ms Giuffre have now provided further information to the High Court, and the High Court has accepted the request for service under the Hague Service Convention.

"The legal process has not yet been served but the High Court will now take steps to serve under the convention, unless service is arranged by agreement between the parties."

At the first pre-trial hearing in New York, on Monday, the prince's lawyer, Andrew Brettler, argued he had not been properly served under either UK or international law.

Ms Giuffre's lawyers had claimed papers had been left with a police officer at the gates of Prince Andrew's Windsor home last month - and so successfully "served".

The prince does not face the prospect of an extradition hearing, as this applies only to criminal charges and not civil cases.

So what happens now?

It is now becoming very, very hard for the Duke of York to avoid being served with documents and having to file a response to the courthouse in New York.

An international agreement between British and US courts means the High Court is now under an obligation to find the most practical way to serve the Giuffre case on Prince Andrew.

English law sets out clear but flexible rules on how that should happen - and the court will ultimately decide how best to proceed.

It could order an officer of the court to take the documents once more to Windsor, where Prince Andrew lives.

But the US lawyers could ask the High Court to approve an alternative method, such as posting or emailing them, or leaving them with one of his known lawyers.

In practice, many defendants presented with this situation ultimately accept they have to be served and consent to it, so they can focus on how they will respond and attempt to have the case dismissed.

During the hearing, held via telephone conference, Mr Brettler also described the civil case against the prince as "baseless, non-viable [and] potentially unlawful".

And he said a 2009 settlement between Ms Giuffre and billionaire sex offender Jeffrey Epstein had released the prince from "any and all liability".

Ms Giuffre, now 38, was an accuser of Epstein, who died in prison in 2019, and claims she was sexually assaulted by the prince at three locations, including New York City.

Ms Giuffre - then known as Virginia Roberts - says she was assaulted at the London home of Epstein associate Ghislaine Maxwell, and at Epstein's homes in Manhattan and Little Saint James, in the US Virgin Islands.

'No recollection'

Her case claims Prince Andrew, 61, engaged in sexual acts without Ms Giuffre's consent, including when she was 17, knowing how old she was, and "that she was a sex-trafficking victim".

The Queen's second son has consistently denied the claims and, in 2019, told BBC Two's Newsnight programme: "It didn't happen.

"I can absolutely categorically tell you it never happened.

"I have no recollection of ever meeting this lady, none whatsoever."

Media caption,

Prince Andrew said in 2019 he could not recall any incident involving Virginia Roberts.