Prince Andrew’s lawyer has “blown the opportunity” to have the sexual assault case against him thrown out, a legal expert has said.
The Duke of York’s lawyer, Andrew B Brettler, argued during a video conference hearing that Andrew’s accuser, Virginia Giuffre, waived her right to sue him for sexual assault when she signed a $500,000 (£370,000) settlement agreement with Jeffrey Epstein.
Brettler said that the confidential agreement Ms Giuffre entered into with Epstein, who she claims trafficked her to have sex with Andrew, ended her right to pursue anyone else.
The document, made public on Monday, detailed how Andrew’s accuser received a $500,000 payout in 2009 and agreed to “release, acquit, satisfy and forever discharge” disgraced financier Epstein and “any other person or entity who could have been included as a potential defendant”.
Judge Lewis A Kaplan, who is presiding over the case, questioned the meaning of “potential defendant”, saying that “potential” was a word in which neither he nor Brettler could “find any meaning at all”.
Mark Stephens, head of media litigation at UK law firm Howard Kennedy, said that Brettler had been “appalling” in the way he conducted the case – and may have hindered Andrew’s chances of winning.
Watch: Victims' lawyer: Very optimistic case against Prince Andrew will proceed
He told Sky News: “This was a case which needed them to take the judge through the letter of the contract.
“He has blown the opportunity for Andrew.”
Stephens said that even if the case against Andrew gets thrown out, “it just means his friend Jeffrey Epstein did a settlement which protects him”.
He added: “The problem for Andrew is it’s not a good look whichever way you look…
“The time it gets worse is if it goes to trial.”
Spencer Kuvin, who represents the victims of Epstein, suggested that carrying on with the trial “would be best for Andrew’s reputation”.
He told Sky News: “If the prince is looking to survive this from a public relations perspective he's going to have to get down to the facts…
“If he can defend this case and win on the merits then he may be able to defend his reputation and re-establish his public personality.”
Labour MP Jess Phillips criticised the document signed by Ms Giuffre as a defence, tweeting: “If you are relying on a document negotiated and paid for by a child sex trafficker to silence a woman then you are relying on nothing at all.”
Andrew’s lawyer said of the settlement agreement: “I don’t know who would be included in other potential defendants – if it weren’t all of the other people who… Giuffre alleged abused her.
“She could have sued them and she did not and therefore she waived her rights to sue them when she entered into the 2009 release agreement and accepted the money from Mr Epstein.
“She did not return that money when she decided to file this lawsuit.”
He added that the claim against Andrew was “unfair and unjust” and “it should be dismissed”.
Ms Giuffre is suing the Queen’s son for allegedly sexually assaulting her when she was a teenager. She is seeking unspecified damages, but there is speculation the sum could be millions of dollars.
She claims she was trafficked by Epstein to have sex with Andrew when she was aged 17 and a minor under US law.
Ms Giuffre said Andrew abused her three times – on Epstein Island, in a property owned by Epstein in the US and at the London home of Ghislaine Maxwell, a British socialite and Epstein's longtime associate.
Andrew has denied all the allegations.
Maxwell was last week convicted of luring young girls for disgraced financier Jeffrey Epstein to molest.
The 60-year-old, who was labelled “dangerous” by the prosecution, faces the rest of her life in jail for helping to entice vulnerable teenagers to Epstein’s various properties for him to sexually abuse between 1994 and 2004.
Watch: A lawyer's take on the Giuffre-Prince Andrew case