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'Speaks for itself': Prince Andrew settles sex abuse claim before trial

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Britain’s Prince Andrew has settled a US lawsuit by Virginia Giuffre accusing him of sexually abusing her when she was a teenager, avoiding a trial set down for later this year.

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The settlement, which includes an undisclosed payment, was revealed on Tuesday in a filing in Manhattan federal court, where Giuffre had sued the Duke of York last August. The prince did not admit wrongdoing in the settlement.

A trial in the case had been expected to begin this year. Andrew would have had to give testimony under oath.

David Boies, a lawyer for Giuffre, said: “This event speaks for itself.”

Giuffre’s case had focused on Andrew’s friendship with the late Jeffrey Epstein, the financier and sex offender who she said also sexually abused her. The filing said Andrew regrets his past association with Epstein.

In the joint filing, lawyers for Giuffre, 38, and Andrew, 61, said their settlement in principle calls for the prince to make a “substantial donation” to Giuffre’s charity in support of victims’ rights.

“Prince Andrew has never intended to malign Ms Giuffre’s character, and he accepts that she has suffered both as an established victim of abuse and as a result of unfair public attacks,” the filing said.

Andrew has denied accusations that he forced Giuffre, who now lives in Australia, to have sex at age 17 more than two decades ago at the London home of Epstein associate Ghislaine Maxwell, Epstein’s mansion in Manhattan and Epstein’s private island in the US Virgin Islands.

“It is known that Jeffrey Epstein trafficked countless young girls over many years,” the filing said. “Prince Andrew regrets his association with Epstein, and commends the bravery of Ms Giuffre and other survivors in standing up for themselves and others. He pledges to demonstrate his regret for his association with Epstein by supporting the fight against the evils of sex trafficking, and by supporting its victims.”

The statement represented a marked departure from a 2019 BBC interview in which Andrew failed to show sympathy toward Epstein’s victims and refused to apologise for his friendship with the financier.

The royal family in January removed Andrew’s military titles and royal patronages and said he would no longer be known as “His Royal Highness”.

Andrew was defending against Giuffre’s lawsuit as a private citizen. For now, his legal exposure in the United States to similar claims appears to be over.

Buckingham Palace declined to comment. A lawyer for Andrew did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Andrew faces no criminal charges, and none will result from Giuffre’s lawsuit because it was a civil case.

The office of US Attorney Damian Williams in Manhattan has been investigating Epstein’s sex trafficking and considered Andrew at least a potential witness, or “person of interest”.

Andrew had previously declined the office’s interview requests, former US Attorney Geoffrey Berman said in June 2020, the month before Maxwell’s arrest.

In court papers in the lawsuit, Giuffre said she “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”.

She also said that in Manhattan, Maxwell forced her to sit on Andrew’s lap as he touched her, and Andrew forced her to engage in sex acts against her will.

US District Judge Lewis Kaplan refused to dismiss Giuffre’s lawsuit last month.

Andrew’s lawyers had contended that Giuffre’s lawsuit was “baseless” and that she was seeking “another payday”, after also receiving “millions of dollars” in a 2017 settlement of her civil defamation lawsuit against Maxwell.

Epstein killed himself at age 66 in a Manhattan jail cell in August 2019 while awaiting trial on sex-trafficking charges.

Maxwell, 60, was convicted in December of recruiting and grooming underage girls for Epstein to abuse between 1994 and 2004. She is seeking a new trial.

-with AAP

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