High Court accepts request to notify Andrew about accuser’s civil case

Virginia Giuffre’s legal team asked the court to take action under the Hague Service Convention.

Duke of York
Duke of York

The Duke of York could be tracked down by a High Court sheriff after lawyers representing the woman suing him for alleged sexual assault asked the UK legal system to notify him about the case.

The High Court in London has accepted a request by Virginia Giuffre’s legal team to formally contact Andrew about the civil proceedings launched in America, after first rejecting the application citing a technicality.

It will begin trying to locate the duke who is reportedly staying with the Queen at Balmoral, or a legal representative, to officially tell him about the case – known as service of proceedings.

Epstein investigation
Virginia Giuffre is suing the Duke of York (Crime+Investigation screengrab/PA)

The first pre-trial hearing was held on Monday in New York when David Boies, representing Ms Giuffre, said the complaint had been “delivered to the last known address of the defendant” and documents had also been sent “by Royal Mail”.

But Andrew B Brettler, the duke’s attorney, said the royal’s team contested “the validity of service to date”, adding he has not been properly served under either UK or international law.

Solicitor advocate Nick Goldstone, head of dispute resolution at international law firm Ince, said: “Andrew’s lawyers need to make themselves known, officially no one is ‘on the record’ for Andrew in England with regards to these proceedings.

“It may well be that the court might be invited to instruct a High Court sheriff to attend and deal with service.”

Under the Hague Service Convention, a treaty that governs requests between countries for evidence in civil or commercial matters, Ms Giuffre’s legal team can ask the High Court in London to formally notify Andrew about her civil action.

Andrew speaks at Davos
The Duke of York stepped down from public life following the fallout from his friendship with Jeffrey Epstein (PA)

After earlier highlighting an issue with the application, the High Court said later: “The 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.”

The duke does not have to engage with civil proceedings in a foreign country but this week has seen the first legal skirmishes in a process which could take more than 18 months before a trial is finally heard.

Mr Goldstone said if Andrew is served with official notification about Ms Giuffre’s civil action he will have to make the choice whether or not to submit to the jurisdiction of the New York court.

He said: “If he’s served he then has to decide whether or not he’s going to respond to the proceedings, whether or not he’s going to defend the proceedings and fight them – or he can ignore them if he wants to. Nobody is compelled to engage in civil litigation if they don’t want to.

“And what would happen if he is served and he chooses not to respond or engage in the proceedings and he just effectively ignores them? Then the New York court can say ‘well, he’s been served, he’s choosing not to engage, let’s proceed without him’.”

He added a default ruling is likely to be made in favour of Ms Giuffre in this instance.

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 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.

Andrew has vehemently denied all the allegations.

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