Prince Andrew formally served sex assault lawsuit in US

© Max Mumby/Indigo/Getty Images Europe Prince Andrew – Max Mumby/Indigo/Getty Images Europe

The Duke of York has formally been served a US sex assault lawsuit, it emerged on Monday night, as he was urged by friends and aides to ditch his London-based legal team amid growing concern about its strategy.

Lawyers representing the Duke’s long time accuser, Virginia Roberts Giuffre, lodged a document with the New York court confirming that it had on Monday delivered the claim to his American counsel, Andrew Brettler, by both email and FedEx.

Prince Andrew, 61, had challenged the various methods of service but judge Lewis Kaplan made clear in an order last week that he could be notified by LA-based Mr Brettler.

He will now have 21 days to respond to the claim or face a default judgment.

The Duke is facing the prospect of a highly damaging court case after repeated failures to respond to the claim appeared to have backfired.

His defence is being masterminded by Gary Bloxsome, a London-based criminal defence solicitor, hired early last year.

However, well-placed sources close to the Duke have warned him that Mr Bloxsome’s favoured strategy of stonewalling the allegations has allowed David Boies, the American attorney representing Ms Giuffre, to “outwit and outplay” him at every turn.

His advisers are questioning whether he hired the right team for the job amid reports of crisis talks at Balmoral, where the Duke is currently staying. There are fears that the legal team’s “wall of silence and policy of evasion” is damaging the monarchy.

One source suggested it was unlikely that there would be a “wholesale” change of tack with court hearings already under way. However, the pressure to change the dynamic is such that it is believed the Duke should insist on a switch of strategy.

Another source close to the Duke suggested he had been bombarded with alternative advice by well-placed legal experts and friends but appeared to have put all his trust in Mr Bloxsome.

The source warned that such was the damage already done to his reputation that it was difficult to see a way back.

“I don’t think I’ve ever come across a situation where someone has been tried in the public domain in this way,” the source said. “It doesn’t matter if he’s fully vindicated by a court, the damage has already been done. It is almost unprecedented.”

The source said the Duke’s legal team should have created a situation in which they had a “line in the sand” from which they could move forward, adding: “Andrew doesn’t have this line. People are advising him in many different ways, but it’s not over yet – far from it.”

Ms Giuffre claims she was forced to have sex with the Duke when she was 17 in London, at Jeffrey Epstein’s Manhattan townhouse and on Epstein’s Caribbean island – a claim the Duke has vehemently denied. 

He has not yet offered any formal legal response to the civil action. On Friday, he was given a week to challenge the High Court’s decision to accept a request to formally notify him of the lawsuit.

Lewis Kaplan, the New York judge presiding over the case, last week warned Andrew Brettler, the Duke’s newly appointed US-based counsel, against wasting time and money on technicalities. The next hearing is scheduled for Oct 13.

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