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Prince Andrew sex abuse case: What happens now?

The Queen’s second eldest son is being sued in a New York court by Queensland-based Virginia Giuffre who alleges she was “lent out” for underage sex by US financier Jeffrey Epstein to the Duke of York.If a judge finds against him, Prince Andrew may be forced to pay Ms Giuffre damages.But in a fresh twist, his legal team look set to ignore the hearing because they believe the court papers were not properly served on the royal – who spent the weekend holding a shooting party for guests at the Queen’s Balmoral Estate.An agent for Ms Giuffre said in an affidavit filed with the US District Court in Manhattan that he handed the papers to a Met Police officer at the main gates of Royal Lodge, the home Prince Andrew shares with his ex-wife Sarah Ferguson.THE CASEMs Giuffre claims the abuse occurred at the London home of socialite Ghislaine Maxwell – an ex-lover of Epstein and friend of the prince – more than 20 years ago, when she was under 18.The now 38-year-old also claims the prince sexually abused her at Epstein’s New York mansion and on Little St. James, Epstein’s private island in the US Virgin Islands.Epstein killed himself in a New York prison in 2019 while awaiting trial on sex trafficking minors.Prince Andrew, 61, has strongly denied claims he had sex with Ms Giuffre, and insists he can’t remember even meeting her – despite a photograph that shows him with his arm around her.The Sun reports Ms Giuffre’s lawyers claim they have secured the testimony of two key witnesses who say they saw Prince Andrew with her on two separate occasions.Prince Andrew stepped back from life as a senior working royal in 2019 as the scandal grew and he gave a disastrous interview to the BBC where he was accused of lacking empathy to Epstein’s victims.THE HEARINGOn Monday afternoon New York time, a pre-trial conference will begin in Ms Giuffre’s case against the prince.US District Judge Lewis Kaplan will hold a phone conference call, but it is unclear if Prince Andrew’s legal team will participate. UK media report his lawyers will not attend.According to the affidavit, it took 15 days and multiple attempts to serve the documents, that were eventually left with police.Ms Giuffre’s lawyers say the prince has been served with the lawsuit and has to respond by September 17According to the BBC, his legal team are not considering the papers have been legally served.The Duke’s legal team in the United States is believed to include Blair Berk, a high-powered, Los Angeles-based lawyer whose previous clients include Harvey Weinstein, Britney Spears, Leonardo DiCaprio and Mel Gibson.“If you fail to respond, judgment by default will be entered against you for the relief demanded in the complaint,” Ms Giuffre’s lawyers state in the documents.Judge Kaplan will have to first determine if the papers were correctly served.If the case continues and the prince and his legal team ignore the lawsuit, he could be ruled to be in default and the court could order him to pay damages to Ms Giuffre.Because this is a civil case, not a criminal one, Prince Andrew cannot be extradited from the UK to face court.Ms Giuffre’s has brought the case forward under the Child Victims Act and this will be the first time the sensational allegations are heard in a formal setting.New York State’s Child Victims Act allows survivors of childhood sexual abuse to file a case which has already been time-barred or expired, and gives them a year to do so.WHAT COULD HAPPEN TO PRINCE ANDREW?Legal experts say only a few such cases actually proceed to trial, but there is a chance this could.The alternatives are it will be struck out by a judge, settled beforehand, or Ms Giuffre will drop the complaint.Melissa Murray, professor of law at New York University, told the BBC: “This is not about whether or not Prince Andrew will go to jail – he has no criminal exposure from this particular case.”Instead he could face “significant money damages” and the royal family exposed to some uncomfortable questions.Prof Murray said Prince Andrew’s team would probably be more worried that it comes as Maxwell is due to stand trial in November.She has pleaded not guilty to charges that she conspired with Epstein in the abuse of four underage girls.“With this civil suit pending and her about to go to trial on these criminal charges, there may be even more pressure – and indeed temptation – for her to co-operate with federal prosecutors and perhaps provide more information about all of the individuals who were in the orbit of Jeffrey Epstein and that could, allegedly, include the prince himself,” Prof Murray said.The claim says the “extreme and outrageous conduct” continues to cause Ms Giuffre “significant emotional and psychological distress and harm”.“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,” the documents read.“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.”She said she “didn’t take this decision lightly”.“As a mother and a wife, my family comes first — and I know that this action will subject me to further attacks by Prince Andrew and his surrogates — but I knew if I did not pursue this action, I would be letting them and victims everywhere down.”[email protected]

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