The Duke of York’s deposition could be made public even if he settles out of court, raising the prospect that he will try to make a financial deal with his accuser first.
A seven-hour grilling under oath, by one of the most feared litigators in the US, is the next hurdle that the Duke will have to overcome if his civil case proceeds.
However, legal experts warned he faced the “very real risk” that its contents could eventually become public, either as part of the evidence submitted at trial, unsealed by a court in separate or later proceedings, or even leaked.
Virginia Roberts Giuffre has alleged that she was sexually abused or raped by the Duke on three separate occasions in 2001, when she was 17. She is seeking unspecified damages.
The Duke lodged his formal response to the complaint on Wednesday evening. It contained a 73-point rebuttal of the allegations in which he expressly denied “any and all wrongdoing”.
He also denied being a close friend of Ghislaine Maxwell and said that he lacked “sufficient evidence” to state whether photographic evidence of his alleged meeting with Ms Giuffre even “exists”.
He submitted 11 reasons why the case should be dismissed, including that his accuser’s claims were barred by “her own wrongful conduct”.
Senior members of the Royal family have urged the Duke to settle the case, it is understood, amid fears of yet further reputational damage to the monarchy and the case overshadowing the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee.
While he has told friends that he is determined to clear his name, sources admit that a settlement remains an option and that he is under increasing pressure from Buckingham Palace to bring the whole thing to a close.
The Duke has already been given a date for his deposition, The Telegraph understands, which would be conducted by David Boies, Ms Giuffre’s lawyer, on neutral territory in London.
He will undergo intense training in preparation, not least after his disastrous performance on BBC’s Newsnight in Nov 2019.
The grilling will be “humiliating” and thorough, legal experts said, covering every aspect of his private life and sexual history.
Moira Penza, a former federal prosecutor in New York, said: “Once there has been a deposition, there is always the potential for it to become public in one way or another.
“This is the point when he would typically be considering whether or not to engage in settlement negotiations. There is leverage now. Prince Andrew will not want to go through a deposition.”
‘A very real pressure point’ for the Duke
Mitchell Epner, a former federal prosecutor now practising with Rottenberg Lipman Rich, a New York law firm, described Mr Boies as a “very, very skilful advocate”, a master of the art of deposition taking who was worthy of fear.
He said: “In the history of American jurisprudence there is nobody better at taking a deposition than David Boies. This is a very real pressure point for Prince Andrew.
“Knowing the way David Boies prepares for a deposition, he and his people will have command over all documentary evidence and will devise a strategy to use that information to trap Prince Andrew in an untenable position.
“It may be that the trap is sprung during the deposition or otherwise it will be set there to be sprung later.”
Mr Boies has publicly stated that Ms Giuffre will settle only if she receives a public apology.
Mr Epner added: “If Prince Andrew is unwilling to apologise, I can’t see how she would want to settle before a deposition. Prince Andrew has only bad choices in front of him.”
Lawyers for both sides will want to gather as much information as possible through other witnesses and documentary evidence, such as medical records, travel itineraries and diary entries, before conducting the Duke’s and Ms Giuffre’s depositions. All discovery must be completed by July 14.
A confidentiality order stipulates that they will have 30 days after the depositions to designate portions of the transcript confidential.
Andrew Brettler, the Duke’s lawyer, will try to ensure that the entire interview remains under seal.
However, he will be aware that a deposition given by Maxwell in 2016, after Ms Giuffre sued her for defamation, was made public in 2019 after a legal battle led by the Miami Herald newspaper, despite opposition on the grounds that it would spark a “furious feeding frenzy”.
The interview was undertaken by Mr Boies, who has previously stated that the moment the case cracked open was the day she sat for the interview.
It was settled on the eve of trial in 2017, but perjury charges were later brought against Maxwell for lying under oath. They were dropped earlier this month after she was convicted of sex trafficking.