Prince Andrew was pictured at Balmoral today as the High Court agreed to formally notify him about Virginia Roberts’s bombshell sex assault claim – raising the possibility he could have to give evidence.
The Queen’s son, 61, was seen with his former wife Sarah Ferguson on a lawn outside the castle, where Her Majesty is currently in residence.
In a major development, English judges accepted a request by Ms Roberts’ legal team to formally contact Andrew about the civil proceedings launched in America, after first rejecting the request, citing a technicality.
For one person to sue another in a civil case, the claimant has to formally present legal papers to the other party to notify them of the action – a process known as a service of proceedings.
Last week, Ms Roberts’ legal team said it had tried to serve papers to the 61-year-old by leaving the documents with a police officer at his home in southern England, in addition to sending them by Royal Mail.
However, despite Andrew being represented in court, his team have argued he has not yet been properly served so the case cannot progress.
In response, Ms Roberts’ legal team used the Hague Service Convention, a treaty governing requests between nations for evidence in civil cases, to ask the High Court to formally notify Andrew about her action.
After earlier highlighting an issue with the application, the High Court today said it has now been accepted. This means the court will serve Andrew the papers itself if Ms Roberts’ lawyers are unable to themselves.
Today’s development does not necessarily mean Andrew will have to defend himself in court.
Even after receiving the papers he could still ignore the case, according to one UK lawyer, although David Boies, representing Ms Roberts – who is now known as Virginia Giuffre – denied this.
‘The bottom line is Prince Andrew is being served,’ he told The Sun. ‘That is the substance of what the High Court says. He cannot refuse.’
Prince Andrew pictured today at Inchnabobart Lodge on the Balmoral Estate, where the Queen is currently staying
Andrew’s former wife, Sarah Ferguson, was seen with Andrew at Balmoral today, and is seen getting into a Range Rover
Andrew – seen today at Balmoral – has been seen regularly with his former wife amid reports he wants to remarry her
Andrew is being sued by Virginia Roberts Giuffre, who accuses him of sexually assaulting her when she was a teenager. She claims to have been trafficked by Jeffrey Epstein
The High Court said today: ‘Lawyers acting for Ms Giuffre have now provided further information to the High Court, and the High Court has accepted the request for service under the Hague Service Convention.
‘The legal process has not yet been served but the High Court will now take steps to serve under the convention, unless service is arranged by agreement between the parties.’
Ms Roberts 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 in the millions of dollars.
She claims she was trafficked by Andrew’s former friend and convicted sex offender Jeffrey Epstein to have sex with the duke, when she was aged 17 and a minor under US law.
What is the Hague Service Convention?
The Hague Service Convention is a treaty governing requests between nations for evidence in civil or commercial cases.
It allows claimants in one country to ask the authorities in another signatory nation to request evidence from one of its citizens.
Ms Roberts’ lawyers invoked the treaty because they were unable to serve Andrew with legal papers to begin their case against him.
The High Court has now agreed to serve the papers itself if Ms Roberts’ lawyers are unable to do so themselves.
The treaty was negotiated in 1967 and 1968 and signed in The Hague on 18 March 1970. It entered into force in 1972.
The question about whether Andrew had been properly notified about the case was a major topic at Monday’s pre-trial hearing at the US district court for the southern district of New York.
The Duke’s attorney, Andrew B Brettler, said their legal team had ‘significant concerns’ about the lawsuit, and that Ms Roberts had previously entered into a ‘settlement agreement’ that would nullify her case.
Mr Brettler said during the hearing, held via telephone conference, the duke’s team contested ‘the validity of service to date’, adding he has not been properly served under either UK or international law.
David Boies, representing Ms Roberts, said that the complaint had been ‘delivered to the last known address of the defendant’, he added that the documents had also been sent ‘by Royal Mail’.
But it appears Mr Boies and his colleagues are trying another course by making the request to the High Court.
Ms Guiffre, an alleged victim of convicted paedophile Epstein, filed a lawsuit against the Queen’s son in federal court in Manhattan on August 9. She claims she was forced to have sex with the royal three times when she was 17 – under the age of consent in the US.
The lawsuit claimed that Andrew was one of the ‘powerful men’ who Epstein loaned Ms Guiffre, then Ms Roberts, out to for sex and accused the duke of ‘publicly feigning ignorance about the scope of Epstein’s sex-trafficking operation and sympathy for Epstein’s victims’.
Andrew, Virginia Roberts, aged 17, and Ghislaine Maxwell at Maxwell’s townhouse in London
Prince Andrew with his ex-wife Sarah Ferguson leaving Windsor to drive to the Queen’s Balmoral estate in Scotland last week
Ms Guiffre alleges the first time with the royal was at the London townhouse of Ghislaine Maxwell, Epstein’s alleged madam.
The second time, in 2001, was at Epstein’s New York mansion, and the third time was on Epstein’s private island in the Caribbean. The formal allegations against the duke are battery and infliction of emotional distress.
Andrew has long denied the allegations and has not been charged with any crime. In a car-crash 2019 interview with the BBC, he claimed he had no memory of ever meeting Ms Roberts, now a 38-year-old mother-of-three who lives in Australia and goes by her married name.
A now-infamous photo, taken inside the London townhouse of Maxwell shows Andrew smiling for the camera with his arm around Ms Roberts’ waist while Maxwell stands in the background.
Andrew has vehemently denied all the allegations.
In a car-crash 2019 interview with the BBC (above), Andrew claimed he had no memory of ever meeting Roberts