Prince Andrew has reached a settlement in the civil sexual assault case brought against him by Virginia Giuffre. The American woman, a victim of Jeffrey Epstein’s sex trafficking ring, had accused Andrew of sexual assault on three occasions when she was a teenager. Andrew has agreed to pay an undisclosed sum to Giuffre, as well as make a donation to her charity, which supports victims of abuse.
Caleb Wheeler, a lecturer in law at Cardiff University who is a qualified lawyer in the US, answers our questions about the content of the settlement and what it means for the case.
Does this mean he’s guilty?
From a legal standpoint, innocence and guilt are criminal law terms and not really applicable in the civil context. In a civil case like this one, the parties are attempting to prove the defendant’s liability. The agreement will contain a clause stating that nothing contained in it should be construed as an admission or concession of liability. Therefore, the legal position is that he is neither liable nor not liable for Giuffre’s claims.
The court of public opinion is a different story. It is likely that some people will construe this settlement as an admission of guilt. The reasoning goes, who would pay £12 million if they didn’t do it? The reality is, Prince Andrew and his legal team may have decided that whatever sum he did agree to pay was an appropriate price to avoid further humiliation arising from his deposition testimony, which was expected in early March, and any written records he might have been required to produce.
There also may be a component of wanting to protect his children. It is almost certain that Princess Beatrice would have had to provide deposition testimony about their alleged visit to the Pizza Express in Woking, which Andrew cited as the reason he could not have had sex with Giuffre. It could be argued that he wanted to avoid putting her through that experience, which could have been emotionally challenging.
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Should we treat this as a win or a loss for Giuffre?
I don’t think Giuffre could have expected a better result. The amount of the settlement will be substantial whatever the agreement calls for. More importantly, Prince Andrew was never going to publicly apologise or admit guilt. The fact that she got him to agree to recognise her victimhood, even if he doesn’t say at whose hands, and commend her bravery for coming forward was the best she could have hoped for. I think she would consider this an unequivocal win.
Was it inevitable that he would settle? Why didn’t he do so earlier?
This outcome was not inevitable at the outset of the case. It only became so after a New York judge ruled that Prince Andrew was not protected by a secret settlement Giuffre had signed with Jeffrey Epstein in 2009. In that US$500,000 (£360,000) agreement, Giuffre agreed to drop her case against Epstein and not sue anyone who could be described as a “potential defendant”. Andrew’s lawyers had argued that this meant Giuffre waived her right to sue him, but the court disagreed.
Once that decision was reached and the case was allowed to move forward, settlement became the only realistic outcome. Andrew does not want to be subjected to a deposition which would explore not only his involvement with Giuffre, but also his connection to Jeffrey Epstein and Ghislaine Maxwell and any sexual indiscretions he may be shown to have committed.
With regard to his position in the monarchy, the timing suggests that the Queen was waiting to see if Andrew would be protected by the Epstein agreement before stripping him of his titles. This happened the day after the court ruled he did not have immunity.
It is possible that until that point, the monarchy believed Andrew’s royal position and titles were still redeemable. But once it became clear that he would likely have to settle, this was no longer the case.
Court documents say that the parties will file a ‘stipulated dismissal’ when Giuffre receives the payment. What does this mean?
A stipulated dismissal means that the case will be voluntarily discontinued provided certain stipulations are met. In this case, the stipulation appears to be that Giuffre will drop her claims once she receives whatever amount of money Prince Andrew has agreed to pay. The letter sent to the judge indicates that will happen in the next 30 days.
The fact that they have informed the judge of their intention to settle the case would suggest that an agreement has been reached. The only thing that might derail the settlement at this point is if Prince Andrew fails to pay.
Where will Andrew get the money to pay the settlement?
The speculation is that he will partly fund it from the sale of his Swiss chalet and that the Queen will fund part of it. This of course raises the question of whether British taxpayers may be indirectly funding the settlement.
Will we ever know the full terms and amount of the settlement?
Settlement agreements are usually confidential and it would be shocking if Prince Andrew didn’t insist on confidentiality before agreeing to settle the case. That being said, a significant amount of information in this case has made it into the public sphere so it would not surprise me if someone in the British media was able to learn the terms of the settlement. One only needs to look at this morning’s papers to learn a great deal about the settlement that would normally be confidential.
After Epstein’s death and Maxell’s conviction, Andrew was the only big player remaining. Is this the effective end of the Epstein case?
I think there could be a few further twists in this tale. Ghislaine Maxwell has requested a new trial on the basis that one of the jurors in her original trial failed to disclose that they had been a victim of sexual abuse. If granted, she will almost certainly be tried again. If that request is denied, she is still likely to appeal against her conviction.
There have also been whispers about Epstein’s connections to other public figures, although no real allegations have been brought against any of them. It remains possible that could change, but it seems unlikely at this point.
This settlement should represent the end of Prince Andrew’s involvement in the larger Jeffrey Epstein saga. While the settlement won’t shield him from being called to testify in Maxwell’s possible criminal retrial, the possibility of that remains remote. None of the four women Maxwell was convicted of grooming and trafficking have been connected to Andrew, suggesting that his testimony in the case wouldn’t be relevant.