A judge has rejected Prince Andrew’s attempt to have the sexual assault lawsuit against him thrown out.
US judge Lewis Kaplan refused to dismiss the case after hearing arguments from lawyers representing the royal and his accuser Virginia Giuffre.
It means the royal will face a civil sex case trial later this year.
The Duke of York is being sued by Ms Giuffre, formerly known as Virginia Roberts, who claims he “committed sexual assault and battery” upon her when she was a teenager.
Follow live updates: Civil trial likely this year as judge issues 46-page document rejecting Prince Andrew’s arguments
She alleges that she was trafficked by Jeffrey Epstein, the late disgraced financier, to have sex with Andrew when she was aged 17.
The duke’s lawyers had asked for the civil lawsuit in New York to be dismissed after arguing Ms Giuffre waived her right to sue him when she signed a $500,000 dollar settlement agreement with Epstein.
What has Prince Andrew been accused of?
The 2009 document said Ms Giuffre had agreed to “release, acquit, satisfy, and forever discharge” Epstein and “any other person or entity who could have been included as a potential defendant”.
At a court hearing, Andrew Brettler, representing Andrew, said it was “unquestionable” that the royal could have been sued in the 2009 case, and would therefore be considered a “potential defendant”.
The duke’s lawyer told Judge Kaplan that Ms Giuffre’s lawsuit “should absolutely be dismissed”, arguing it was “unfair” and “unjust”.
But Ms Giuffre’s lawyer David Boies said Andrew would not be a “potential defendant” as referred to in the settlement, as the 2009 lawsuit made no allegation that the duke had trafficked individuals for illegal sexual activity.
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Mr Boies told the hearing: “He was somebody to whom the girls were trafficked, that’s a different criteria.”
Outlining his reasons for denying the duke’s motion to dismiss the civil case against him, Judge Kaplan said the agreement between Esptein and Ms Giuffre “cannot be said” to benefit the royal.
Analysis: Enormous blow for Prince Andrew
Davos, January 2015, and in front of a room of businesspeople at the World Economic Forum, Prince Andrew for the first time had to publicly deny the sex abuse allegations made against him.
And yet since then, for seven years, the claims have continued to haunt him and the rest of the Royal Family, fuelled by the determination of his accuser Virginia Giuffre and the huge international interest in this case.
There is no doubt the decision by the judge to allow this civil case to proceed, ramping up the possibility of a trial later this year, will come as an enormous blow to the Duke of York.
Read full analysis here
In his ruling, the judge said: “The 2009 agreement cannot be said to demonstrate, clearly and unambiguously, the parties intended the instrument ‘directly,’ ‘primarily,’ or ‘substantially,’ to benefit Prince Andrew.”
He added: “Ms (Virginia) Giuffre’s complaint is neither ‘unintelligible’ nor ‘vague’ nor ‘ambiguous’.
“It alleges discrete incidents of sexual abuse in particular circumstances at three identifiable locations. It identifies to whom it attributes that sexual abuse.”
Buckingham Palace declined to comment on the development, saying: “We would not comment on what is an ongoing legal matter.”
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Could Prince Andrew be stripped of his royal and military titles?
Ms Giuffre is seeking unspecified damages, but there is speculation the sum could be in the millions of dollars.
Andrew, who has not been charged with any criminal offences, vehemently denies the allegations against him.
The civil trial is expected to be held between September and December.
Judge Kaplan had previously rejected a request to halt the civil lawsuit against Andrew over matters of jurisdiction after the duke’s lawyers argued Ms Giuffre lived in Australia and not the US, where the case is being heard.
The ruling comes afterGhislaine Maxwell was last month found guilty of recruiting underage girls to be sexually abused by her ex-boyfriend Epstein, who killed himself in 2019 while awaiting trial on sex-trafficking charges.