Prince Andrew and his lawyers are steering clear of a pre-trial hearing in New York today over sex abuse allegations against the royal.
The Duke of York is facing “growing criticism” of his apparent failure to engage in the civil case, filed by accuser Virginia Roberts Giuffre last month, said The Times. Andrew has denied Giuffre’s claims that he repeatedly assaulted her when she was aged 17.
But he has remained silent as the two sides argue over “whether the prince was properly served with a court summons” – a requisite for the case to proceed, the paper reported.
According to court documents, a legal courier tried but failed to serve the court papers at Andrew’s official residence, the Royal Lodge in Windsor, on 26 August. The affidavit said: “Security staff had already been primed not to allow anyone access onto the property to serve court process.”
But the following day, “a second attempt was made”, ITV News reported, “and the papers were left with a Metropolitan Police Officer who said they would be passed to Prince Andrew’s legal team”.
The duke is not currently at the Royal Lodge, where he lives with his ex-wife Sarah Ferguson, after going to stay with the Queen on the Balmoral Estate in Aberdeenshire “for the second time this summer”, the news site added.
He and Ferguson also decamped to Scotland after the lawsuit was filed, on 9 August, and Andrew had crisis talks with the Queen at the Highlands castle last year over his links to late convicted paedophile Jeffrey Epstein.
Despite Andrew’s latest absence from his home, Giuffre’s legal team “claim that by leaving the papers with the officer, the service was successfully completed”, said the BBC. But “one reason it is believed the duke’s team does not consider papers have been served is because they maintain British legal procedures require that a valid request for assistance from UK court officials must come from a judicial or diplomatic officer in the US – and not from Ms Giuffre’s lawyers”, the broadcaster continued.
BBC royal correspondent Nicholas Witchell said: “Clearly the papers have not been served personally on Prince Andrew. Equally clearly, Prince Andrew has not been making himself available to receive these papers, so it will all now have to be decided by a judge in New York.”
The ruling on whether the case can continue is due to made at a video conference at 9pm UK time today.
“In US law, a plaintiff must serve the complaint upon the defendant within 120 days of it being filed,” said ITV. If the judge accepts that the papers have been served, the “clock will start ticking”.
Andrew’s legal team will then have to decide whether to contest the lawsuit, come to an out-of-court agreement – or continue to refuse to engage with the case.
According to the broadcaster, the Duke of York’s legal team are currently instructing him “and those closest to him” to keep quiet and “refuse any request to respond to developments”.
“The royals traditionally keep their heads down when things go wrong, and hide behind palace walls and hope it goes away,” royal biographer Nigel Cawthorne told The Sunday Post. But “in this case, it’s not going to go away”, he added.
However, sources close to Andrew told The Mirror last week that the “bullish” duke thought that the scandal would “blow over”. According to an insider, Andrew is “utterly convinced he will not only be exonerated but will certainly forge a way back to public life”.
But, according to The Times, “if Andrew rejects the lawsuit out of hand and declines to participate, he runs the risk of the court finding against him for child sex abuse and ordering him to pay damages” to Giuffre.
And “if he decides to contest it in court, he faces years of damaging headlines as the case meanders through the legal system”.