Settlement in sex abuse lawsuit against Prince Andrew leaves lingering questions
Case settled out of court, avoiding trial that could cast shadow over Queen's Platinum Jubilee
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In the days since word broke of a settlement in the sexual abuse lawsuit against Prince Andrew, there has been much focus on the many questions left publicly unresolved since it didn't make it to court.
But a settlement out of court in the case brought by lawyers for Virginia Giuffre, a longtime accuser of the late convicted sex offender Jeffrey Epstein, was always a likely outcome in this high-profile legal action, and comes as little surprise to those familiar with civil suits.
"I would have been surprised if it did not settle," said Trevor Farrow, a professor at Osgoode Hall Law School at York University in Toronto.
The vast majority of civil suits do settle out of court, and there are numerous reasons why those on both sides of such an action would choose to go that route — from avoiding the cost and trauma of a trial to the high degree of uncertainty about how it might all turn out.
"I would resist the settlement being represented as capitulation by either side, because a lot more considerations go into a decision to settle," said Rob Currie, a professor in the Schulich School of Law at Dalhousie University in Halifax.
Lawyers for Giuffre had filed the suit in a Manhattan court last year, alleging that Andrew sexually assaulted her two decades ago, when she was 17.
Queen Elizabeth's second son, now 62, had repeatedly denied the allegations at the heart of the suit.
Giuffre, now living in Australia, had accused Andrew of forcing her to have sex with him at the London home of Ghislaine Maxwell, a longtime associate of Epstein. Giuffre also said Andrew abused her at Epstein's mansion in New York City and on Epstein's private island in the Caribbean.
Many observers expect the settlement would have been greeted with relief by the Royal Family, coming as it does at the beginning of the Platinum Jubilee to mark Queen Elizabeth's 70 years as monarch. The prospect of a messy, lurid trial threatened to cast a significant shadow over the Jubilee.
Observers also widely argue that there is little — or no — way back in the court of public opinion for Prince Andrew, whose reputation sank like a stone, particularly after the disastrous November 2019 interview he did with the BBC regarding his friendship with Epstein.
With the settlement, which includes an undisclosed sum of money for Giuffre, a public airing of the allegations at the heart of the suit won't happen.
And that's typical in such situations.
WATCH | Prince Andrew settles sexual abuse case with Virginia Giuffre:
"Many if not most settlements are done confidentially," said Farrow.
"Many if not most settlements are done without an admission of guilt or an apology and many if not most settlements are done in such a way that the public never knows what happened."
For the parties involved, that's an upside of settlements, Farrow said, allowing them "to deal with the matter quite frankly and to strategize [a way] to get rid of a case."
But he said it's also one of the downsides of settlements, "in the sense that when they deal with issues of public interest, the public never knows about it."
And so questions linger, as they do in any case that settles.
"We're not interested in the 9,999 other civil cases that settled [that day], but the same questions arise," said Currie. "Who did what? What happened? Was one side right? Was the other side right?
"The parties always expressly agree not to answer any of those questions, because it's in their mutual interest not to."
Still, Farrow did see something unusual in this settlement.
"There are some terms that have been disclosed," he said.
"One is a statement of regret of the prince's association with Epstein, and secondly, a statement of support or ongoing support and perhaps actually a financial donation to survivors of sexual and gender-based assault….
"The fact that those elements of the settlement have been made public is arguably a very good thing and also not a typical thing."
Farrow guesses those terms would have been heavily negotiated.
"It allows [Prince Andrew] to move away from this case without admitting guilt and without a finding of guilt," said Farrow, "and it allows [Virginia Giuffre] to move away from this case in a public way with some kind of recognition of the real issues at stake here and the importance of understanding the violence of gender-based issues like this."
Both Farrow and Currie see the case as offering lessons for those watching from afar.
"There is a segment of the sensible public who might say if you weren't liable for something, why would you ever settle, or if you were injured and you were sure that the other person had injured you, why would you ever settle. And the fact of the matter is 90 per cent of civil cases settle," said Currie.
For Farrow, there are "obvious lessons … we still seem to need to learn," including the "ongoing evils of sexual assault and the fact that everyone, including those with power, those with privilege and those who seemingly have everything, are still also part of this dark aspect of society, or allegedly part of it….
"So I think we all need to continue to be vigilant and to be talking about the real issues at stake here, which are not whether or not a prince is in court but the fact that the allegations [are] of historical sexual assault on young people, and keeping those at the front of our mind."
For more on the lawsuit, see the Royal Reads section below.
Jubilee flags and pins – but no medals
With a combined 50 years of naval service between them, Tom and Julie Beveridge are used to raising and lowering flags, and respecting them.
So they were well-versed in what they were doing first thing in the morning of Feb. 6 in their front yard in Masstown, N.S., when they raised a flag – this time to mark Queen Elizabeth's Platinum Jubilee.
"With our long service, our experience … you recognize and celebrate someone's long service and dedication," Tom Beveridge said over the phone the other day.
"The Queen — she's had seven decades of dedication and commitment as the Queen of Canada. We should be recognizing that."
Feb. 6 marked 70 years to the day that Elizabeth became Queen, on the death of her father, King George VI.
In an Accession Day message, she looked back on the past seven decades and ahead with "a sense of hope and optimism" for her Jubilee year.
Beveridge said the Jubilee offers a chance to thank and show respect for the Queen.
"She has provided us with the stability and non-political head of state position needed. It's not based on populism that is so rampant nowadays. She's been a very stable fixture that we're all accustomed to, and it's important we recognize that."
The same day the Beveridges raised their flag, the Government of Canada announced its plans to mark the Jubilee, including support for community projects (the application deadline is Feb. 22), a Canadian Jubilee emblem, a commemorative stamp from Canada Post and a special two-coin set from the Royal Canadian Mint.
Commemorative banners will be displayed in the spring along Confederation Boulevard, the ceremonial route in downtown Ottawa-Gatineau and other locations across Canada.
Other events include a segment marking the occasion as part of Northern Lights 2022, the summer sound and light show on Parliament Hill, and an exhibit on the terrace of the Chateau Laurier hotel in Ottawa.
"Over the past seven decades, Queen Elizabeth II has cultivated enduring ties with Canadians over years of connecting with our rich cultures and traditions," a Department of Heritage spokesperson said via email this week.
"The Government of Canada encourages Canadians to participate in Jubilee activities throughout this celebratory year to honour Her Majesty's reign and celebrate Canadian achievements over the past seven decades."
Unlike previous Jubilees, however, there won't be a commemorative medal.
The Department of Heritage spokesperson said that is "an approach consistent with that adopted by almost all Commonwealth realms."
It's a decision that has left Michael Jackson, president of the Institute for the Study of the Crown in Canada, "very disappointed."
A commemorative medal would honour Queen Elizabeth for her 70 years and show "how much we appreciate our monarch," Jackson said in an interview.
Beyond that, however, he said it would give "Canada a chance to honour people in all walks of life, great or small, not just the big shots in our society, but the unsung heroes and heroines, those who do great work, in the trenches."
Jackson sees an ambivalence on the part of the federal government toward the Jubilee.
Previous Jubilees, particularly the Queen's Golden (50 years) in 2002 and Diamond (60 years) in 2012, had clear programs announced well in advance, he said.
"They really made quite something of it and in my opinion they were very successful. This time with the Platinum Jubilee, the federal government is being much more low-key."
To the Heritage Department's credit, he said, "they have issued a lapel pin, a very nice pin, and have created an emblem for the Jubilee, which I like … they have a flag."
The institute has its own plans for marking the Jubilee, including producing backgrounders on aspects of the Crown in Canada for its website, educational videos that will be posted on YouTube — the first one will look at the role of the Governor General — and a book, A Resilient Crown: Canada's Monarchy at the Platinum Jubilee, coming out in August, with contributions from 17 writers.
"We hope that … by celebrating the Jubilee and commending the sovereign, who has made the Crown so successful in the 15 realms, that Canadians will better appreciate the value of this institution for our governance and our political culture," Jackson said.
Do you have plans to mark the Platinum Jubilee? Drop a line to The Royal Fascinator — we'll be following efforts to mark the event across Canada over the next few months.
Testing positive for COVID-19
Charles's positive test sparked concern for the Queen's health, because they had recently spent time together.
On Sunday, Buckingham Palace announced the Queen has tested positive for COVID-19 and is experiencing mild, cold-like symptoms and would continue with "light" duties at Windsor Castle this week.
"I'm here…. Well, as you can see, I can't move."
— Queen Elizabeth had a smile and quick quip at the ready as she supported herself with a walking stick while meeting guests during an audience at Windsor Castle. A Buckingham Palace source said she had been feeling slightly stiff that day, Reuters reported.
Word that the settlement in the lawsuit against Prince Andrew includes an undisclosed payment to Virginia Giuffre has sparked questions about how Andrew could pay a sum speculated to be several million pounds and whether he might receive financial help from the Queen. Charities that work with survivors of abuse also say they have "significant concerns" about Prince Andrew's offer to support trafficking victims. [BBC]
In another looming royal scandal, police are investigating cash-for-honours allegations linked to Prince Charles's charity, The Prince's Foundation. [ITV]
In her Accession Day message, Queen Elizabeth offered her "sincere wish" for Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall, to be called Queen Consort when Charles becomes King, a seal of approval that completes the public image turnaround for Camilla. [The Guardian]
There is no indication yet that any member of the Royal Family might visit Canada to mark the Platinum Jubilee, but royal travel appears to be picking up steam again after a pandemic-induced hiatus. Prince William made his first official visit last week to the United Arab Emirates, where he promoted the U.K. and discussed environmental and conservation issues. His wife, Kate, Duchess of Cambridge, goes to Denmark next week, where her visit will have a large focus on an issue of importance to her: early childhood development. Reports also suggest William and Kate will be travelling to the Caribbean next month. [BBC, Daily Mail]
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