Jeffrey Epstein-accuser Virginia Giuffre has started legal action against the Duke of York and said it was “past the time for him to be held to account” for allegedly sexually assaulting her when she was a teenager.
Lawyers for Ms Giuffre filed the civil suit seeking unspecified damages at a federal court in New York, where the court documents claim she was “lent out for sexual purposes” by convicted sex offender Epstein including while she was still a minor under US law.
Andrew is named as the only defendant in the 15-page suit, brought under New York state’s Child Victims Act, though Epstein and his former girlfriend Ghislaine Maxwell are mentioned frequently throughout.
No one is above the law
“In this country no person, whether president or prince, is above the law, and no person, no matter how powerless or vulnerable, can be deprived of the law’s protection,” Ms Giuffre’s lawsuit stated.
“Twenty years ago Prince Andrew’s wealth, power, position, and connections enabled him to abuse a frightened, vulnerable child with no one there to protect her. It is long past the time for him to be held to account.
It is alleged in the documents Ms Giuffre, then known as Virginia Roberts, was sexually abused while aged under 18 by the Queen’s second son at Ghislaine Maxwell’s home in London, at Epstein’s New York mansion and at other locations including Epstein’s private island in the US Virgin Islands.
Maxwell has pleaded not guilty to sex trafficking charges in Manhattan federal court, where she faces trial in November, while Epstein took his own life in a federal jail in the borough in August 2019, a month after he was arrested on sex trafficking charges.
The documents claim Ms Giuffre “was compelled by express or implied threats by Epstein, Maxwell, and/or Prince Andrew to engage in sexual acts with Prince Andrew, and feared death or physical injury to herself or another and other repercussions for disobeying Epstein, Maxwell, and Prince Andrew due to their powerful connections, wealth and authority”.
The duke engaged in the sexual acts without Ms Giuffre’s consent, while aware of her age and while “knowing that she was a sex-trafficking victim”, the documents claim, adding the alleged assaults “have caused, and continue to cause her, significant emotional and psychological distress and harm”.
“Prince Andrew’s actions, described above, constitute extreme and outrageous conduct that shocks the conscience,” the lawsuit stated as it described the emotional distress suffered by Ms Giuffre.
“Prince Andrew’s sexual abuse of a child who he knew was a sex-trafficking victim, and when he was approximately 40 years old, goes beyond all possible bounds of decency and is intolerable in a civilised community,” it added.
In a Newsnight interview with the BBC’s Emily Maitlis in November 2019, Andrew denied claims that he slept with Ms Giuffre on three separate occasions, saying: “I can absolutely categorically tell you it never happened. I have no recollection of ever meeting this lady, none whatsoever.”
The duke also said he has no memory of a well-known photograph of him with his arm around Ms Giuffre’s waist at Maxwell’s house, and has questioned whether it was his own hand in the image.
The fallout from the interview saw the royal criticised for showing a lack of empathy towards Epstein’s victims and a lack of remorse over his friendship with disgraced financier.
Andrew quit his royal duties and publicly promised to co-operate with US authorities investigating Epstein’s crimes, though has since faced a war of words between his camp and American authorities over his availability to answer questions.
Ms Giuffre’s legal action requesting a trial by jury was brought after the duke “stonewalled” requests to co-operate, court documents said.
The PA news agency has seen a copy of the tolling agreement sent to lawyers for Andrew on July 19 which would allow any relevant statute of limitations to be temporarily suspended.
“Again Prince Andrew stonewalled—ignoring (the) Plaintiff’s letter and emails without any reply or response, thereby making this action necessary now,” Ms Giuffre’s court documents state.
It is unclear what powers the court has to compel Andrew to appear, with then US attorney general William Barr saying in June 2020 there were no plans extradite the royal.
Representatives for the duke have been contacted for comment.
Related: Watch: Anti-vax protesters trying to storm into BBC London studios – they barely use – clash with police