Frustrated By The Prince Andrew Settlement? Then You’re Missing The Point

Photo by Mark Kauzlarich/Bloomberg via Getty Images
David Boies, representing several of Jeffrey Epstein's alleged victims, centre, arrives with Annie Farmer, second right, and Virginia Giuffre, victims of Jeffrey Epstein, second left, at federal court in New York on Tuesday 27th August 2019. Epstein, a convicted paedophile, killed himself in prison while awaiting trial on charges of conspiracy and trafficking minors for sex.
The story of Prince Andrew, Duke of York’s proximity to convicted sex offender Jeffrey Epstein has finally reached a conclusion in the form of a settlement payable to one woman: Virginia Giuffre (formerly Roberts). 
In recent years Prince Andrew has proclaimed his innocence, most notably in his Newsnight interview with Emily Maitlis. Even as it was confirmed that he was an associate of Epstein, the prince said he never met the woman – Giuffre – who accused him of sexual assault on three separate occasions when she was under the age of 18. He insisted that he "had no memory" of the photograph of him standing next to Giuffre (then aged 17) in Ghislaine Maxwell’s house with an arm around her waist. He said he had no recollection of ever meeting her. The photo is believed to have been taken by Epstein. In late 2021 Maxwell was found guilty of child sex trafficking (among other offences) and Giuffre pursued Prince Andrew in a civil case in America. The outcome of that case is an out-of-court settlement thought to be worth around £12 million. The response to this news has been a combination of disappointment that the Duke of York will not face a courtroom and insinuations that Giuffre has somehow let herself and other women down for taking the deal and the compensation that comes with it.
Photo by Emily Michot/Miami Herald/Tribune News Service via Getty Images.
Virginia Giuffre holds a photo of herself at age 16, when she says Jeffrey Epstein began abusing her sexually.
However, there is more to this outcome than is obvious at first glance. Virginia Giuffre was always going to take the money, one way or another – this was a civil case after all – and the fine detail of her settlement has significant consequences. 
Lucia Osborne-Crowley is a reporter who covers courtroom proceedings and legal matters for LAW360. She is also the author of two books about sexual assault. She explains to Refinery29 that the detail in this case is really what matters, that Giuffre’s settlement is more of a victory for other survivors than has been widely reported and cautions that we ought to take a moment’s pause before judging Giuffre for this settlement. 
"I was in the courtroom for every single day of the Ghislaine Maxwell sex trafficking trial this past December and I heard victims of Epstein's sex trafficking crimes give evidence firsthand," Osborne-Crowley explains. "They spoke about how long it's taken them to get justice; how long it's taken the legal system to acknowledge what happened to them. I watched them cry as they spoke about what this fight has cost them. Firstly, I can’t even begin to explain how difficult it must have been for those women to get up on that stand and subject themselves to vicious cross-examination about the worst things that have ever happened to them – if Giuffre wants to avoid putting herself through that, that is her right. And secondly, I know from that trial that the tide is turning when it comes to accountability for perpetrators of sexual abuse. This settlement with Prince Andrew is part of that."
On the settlement itself, there are a few really important points to make. 
"The first," says Osborne-Crowley, "is that this was a civil lawsuit and not a criminal trial – that means the outcome of this was always going to be a monetary payment, even if the case went to trial and was ultimately decided by a jury. A lot of people are commenting that Andrew is avoiding jail because this settled out of court – it’s really important to note that that is not true. In civil cases the remedy is monetary damages so this would have been the outcome either way. Also, people are saying he's avoided being 'convicted' due to this settlement – again, this would only be true if this were a criminal case. In civil cases a jury cannot convict a person of criminal conduct – they are there only to decide, on the balance of probabilities, what took place and whether damages should be awarded to the plaintiff."
"Secondly, the public statement attached to this settlement is very unusual. I cover civil settlements almost daily and the language in this is really noteworthy and something Giuffre would have had to fight really hard for. Prince Andrew acknowledged that Jeffrey Epstein trafficked 'countless' girls – that fact is now enshrined forever in a legal document and signed by someone who knew him. Also, the word 'countless' here is very intentional from Giuffre, in my opinion. It indicates that there are other survivors out there that the law doesn’t yet know about – it leaves the door open for more people to come forward. Remember that this legal language would have been fought over tooth and nail – the inclusion of 'countless' is incredibly significant and is not an accident. Similarly, the fact that Giuffre forced Andrew to admit that he regrets his relationship with Jeffrey Epstein is also significant and something she would have had to fight hard for."

This is not your average out-of-court settlement and the fact that Giuffre won these concessions and these damages from one of the most powerful people in the world – from someone who seemingly previously considered himself above the law – is so meaningful.

Lucia Osborne-Crowley
Secondly, The Telegraph has reported this morning that the settlement includes a clause mandating that Andrew can never again deny that he raped Virginia Giuffre. 
"Read that sentence a few times and let it sink in," says Osborne-Crowley. "That is hugely significant and another huge win for Giuffre in terms of this outcome and in terms of accountability. It’s important to state here that I haven’t seen the settlement agreement for myself and I don’t have sources who have seen it, so I don’t know exactly what this clause says and therefore I don’t know the exact legal effect of it, but if it’s in line with what has been reported then that is really meaningful. You don’t get someone to agree to never again deny committing rape if you don’t have very significant evidence against them."
Thirdly, Osborne-Crowley says that while there is, rightly, concern that the money for Prince Andrew’s settlement will come from the queen, "it’s also important to remember that £12 million is a lot of money, and extracting that kind of damages settlement from a royal is unheard of." 
"Again, I know people are disappointed that money is the outcome here but it’s important to think about what that means in terms of the evidence Giuffre collected against him," she adds. "You don’t pay £12 million unless that evidence is significant, and the sum of this settlement sends that message loud and clear."
When it comes to sexual assault, we equate justice with prison sentences. With carceral punishment. In the UK at least, rape prosecutions and convictions remain low. While imprisoning an abuser may feel like justice for some, there are questions that we - as a society - ought to ask about the value of financial compensation, about other kinds of justice. It can pay for good quality talking therapy for as long as the survivor needs and wants it. It can make up for income lost due to trauma. And it can, and will in Giuffre's case, be used to help others via charity work.
"Finally, I want to say this: I am so disappointed by the huge amount of victim-blaming going on connected to this settlement," Osborne-Crowley concludes. "This is Giuffre’s story and she gets to decide how it plays out. Every survivor deserves control over their own life and their own fate – that’s part of the fight against abuse."
"Giuffre has always said that she wants accountability and we need to remember that there is accountability in this outcome. This is not your average out-of-court settlement and the fact that Giuffre won these concessions and these damages from one of the most powerful people in the world – from someone who seemingly previously considered himself above the law – is so meaningful. This has been a long fight for her and she should be applauded for everything she’s done."

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