Irish Daily Mail

Anxiety of the British royals over Andrew lawyers’ handling of ‘rape’ accusation

As landmark celebratio­n for Queen Elizabeth looms...

- By Rebecca English

SENIOR British royals have privately expressed concern over the handling of Prince Andrew’s latest legal crisis as it emerged it could overshadow Queen Elizabeth’s historic platinum jubilee.

The Mail understand­s that both Prince Charles and Prince William have doubts about the way such serious allegation­s have been dealt with by Andrew and his legal team.

More than 48 hours after Virginia Roberts Giuffre’s attorney in the US began civil proceeding­s accusing the 61-year-old royal of ‘rape in the first degree’, sexual battery and sexual abuse, there has been no reaction from Andrew’s camp.

He has previously denied any wrongdoing and strongly maintained his innocence, claiming to have no recollecti­on of having ever met Ms Roberts. Prince Charles, 72, and William, 39, also both fear the scandal could irrevocabl­y damage the reputation of the monarchy, insiders say.

Both men were instrument­al in forcing Andrew to step back from royal duties in November 2019 in the wake of the disastrous BBC interview he gave in an attempt to clear his name.

A royal insider told the Mail yesterday: ‘The family find themselves in an extraordin­arily difficult and sensitive situation given the nature of the allegation­s.

‘They are limited in what they can say publicly and now that the Duke of York is no longer a working royal they are actually rather limited in what control they can exert over the situation privately.’

Last night, sources close to the prince’s family expressed growing frustratio­n with his legal team for the policy of continued silence.

The duke is said to have instructed criminal defence solicitor Gary Bloxsome, of London City firm Blackfords, to help mastermind his response to Ms Roberts’ allegation­s. Mr Bloxsome, a 40year veteran of the company, has defended British troops against war crimes allegation­s, as well as footballer­s in assault cases.

However, a source close to Andrew’s family told the Mail yesterday: ‘We are beginning to question the tactics of Blackfords. Not to put out a statement reiteratin­g or expanding on his denial may work in a restricted, legal sense, but in the court of public opinion his reputation is being shredded.’

Ms Roberts’ attorney, David Boies, revealed that he anticipate­s the case could be heard in New York as early as the ‘middle of next year’. The Queen, 95, is due to celebrate her historic platinum jubilee with a series of major public celebratio­ns in June.

Asked if he felt the lawsuit would be enough to get the ninth in line to the throne to answer questions about the allegation­s, Mr Boies told Sky News: ‘Prince Andrew is going to have to now. He can’t ignore the process.’

Mr Boies has previously accused Andrew and his legal team of ‘stonewalli­ng’ both Ms Roberts and the FBI, which is investigat­ing the crimes of the late US billionair­e paedophile Jeffrey Epstein, a friend of Andrew. The prince has said he has offered to co-operate with FBI.

Mr Boies also confirmed new evidence and new witness statements will form part of their case when it comes to court for trial, which he believes will throw further doubt on the Duke of York’s account.

It is believed he was referring to Johanna Sjoberg, the only other woman to have publicly accused Andrew of sexual misconduct. She alleged he ‘groped’ her by taking a Spitting Image puppet of himself and placing its hand on her breast in London in 2001.

Andrew is currently holidaying with the Queen at Balmoral, her Scottish estate. Sources have scotched claims he was summoned by his mother for crisis talks.

The beleaguere­d royal had always planned to arrive in time for today’s ‘Glorious Twelfth’ – the start of the grouse shooting season – along with his former wife, Sarah, Duchess of York. He was joined yesterday by his youngest daughter, Princess Eugenie, 31, her husband, Jack Brooksbank, and their six-month-old son, August.

In her civil lawsuit filed in New York on Monday, Ms Roberts – who has accused Andrew of having sex with her on three occasions when she was aged 17, knowing that she had been trafficked by Epstein – claims his actions amounted to ‘rape in the first degree’. He has 21 days to respond and if he fails to do so, she could ask the court to find in her favour without a trial, which would be potentiall­y disastrous for his reputation.

It would raise the prospect of Andrew facing demands for damages which could run into millions of pounds.

But if he does decide to come out fighting he could face having to give, for the first time, a detailed account of all his actions and dealings with Epstein, as well as his previous sexual history.

Ms Roberts’ legal team could also demand access to any communicat­ions between himself and Epstein, as well as the mutual friend who introduced them, Ghislaine Maxwell.

She is due to go on trial later this year for acting as his ‘madam’ and helping to traffick vulnerable young victims around the world.

But the prince can – and this is the most likely option for his team – also ask the court to dismiss the case as groundless or try to challenge it on other legal grounds.

‘Reputation is being shredded’

 ??  ?? Infamous picture: Prince Andrew with Virginia Roberts in 2001
Infamous picture: Prince Andrew with Virginia Roberts in 2001
 ??  ?? Downcast: Princess Eugenie arriving by car at the Queen’s Scottish estate
Downcast: Princess Eugenie arriving by car at the Queen’s Scottish estate
 ??  ?? Defence: Gary Bloxsome
Defence: Gary Bloxsome

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