A US judge is set to decide whether an agreement struck between billionaire sex offender Jeffrey Epstein and Virginia Giuffre in 2009 means the current case against Prince Andrew must be dismissed.

Giuffre is suing Andrew for alleged sexual assault when she was a teenager, claiming an undisclosed amount of damages.

However, the prince has denied all accusations and his lawyers have made several efforts to have the case thrown out, including by claiming that Giuffre’s residence in Australia makes the US case invalid.

The most recent twist in the tale came after the publication of a 12-page document revealing the terms of a $500,000 payout from Epstein (below) to Giuffre.

The National: Jeffrey Epstein

The document detailed Giuffre had in 2009 agreed to “release, acquit, satisfy, and forever discharge” Epstein and “any other person or entity who could have been included as a potential defendant”.

The settlement relates to a Florida state case to which the duke was not a party.

It will now be up to US District Judge Lewis Kaplan in New York to determine whether the clause in the 2009 pact blocks Giuffre's lawsuit against Andrew.

What do lawyers think?

Lawyers across the US and UK have taken a look at the document.

Senior law lecturer Dr Nick McKerrell told The National that the problem for Andrew was that the document seemed "far too broad".

He explained: "The way it is worded looks to cover too many scenarios - this sort of unlimited liability clause would not be looked upon kindly by most courts. For example who would be seen as a close enough associate of Epstein to be covered by this catch all clause? This may mean that the court could decide an action could be pursued. 

"Of course this relates solely to a private damages claim from Ms Giuffre and would not have any impact on any potential criminal action against the Prince," he added.

Legal commentator Lucia Osborne-Crowley told The Independent that the vague language in the text meant it was “very possible” Andrew could be protected.

She said the language used was “very broad”, explaining: “It says that any third party that could be considered a ‘potential defendant’ in the Epstein lawsuit will be ‘forever’ shielded from any and all claims brought by Ms Roberts.”

The National:

However, she also said it was “worth noting that Virginia Roberts successfully sued and settled a case against Ghislaine Maxwell in 2017 – so clearly Maxwell was not found to be protected by this clause, if it was raised”.

“In other words, this is not a done deal. There is definitely a legal argument to be had, so it will all depend on what Judge Lewis decides.”

Complex - but up to the judge

Lisa Bloom, who represented women accusing Donald Trump of sexual misconduct and later held a controversial advisory role on Harvey Weinstein’s legal team, said that the vague language in the document was likely to make it irrelevant.

She wrote: “Virginia Giuffre's settlement agreement with Jeffrey Epstein was released today. Prince Andrew argues that her settlement with Epstein releases him as well, and therefore her case against him should be dismissed. I've done hundreds of these over 35 years. Here's why he is wrong.”

She said the document used “truly unusual and bizarre language that I would never allow in a settlement agreement”.

READ MORE: 'Quit honorary military roles or risk staining their history', Prince Andrew told

“Contracts must be clear and specific. This is incomprehensibly vague. Virginia [Giuffre] can never sue any others who wronged her, because she settled with Epstein?

“This makes no sense, and flies in the face of NY law which grants sexual abuse survivors more time to sue,” she added.

Responding to a user who suggested the agreement was so broad it meant Giuffre “couldn't even sue her plumber for a botched repair job on her toilet”, Bloom responded: “Exactly!”

Legal expert Joshua Rozenberg QC also noted the broad language used, saying it seemed Epstein’s lawyers “were being paid by the word”.

He writes: “Crucially, [Andrew] was not referred to by name in the agreement. How can he claim the benefit of a deal to which he was not a party?

“The answer, according to his lawyer Andrew Brettler, is that the duke was a third-party beneficiary.”

The crux of this argument is whether Andrew received “only incidental or consequential benefits” from the agreement, or if he was “an intended third-party beneficiary”.

The prince’s lawyers argue that the claim against Epstein which Giuffre withdrew was intended to cover Andrew in its mention of “royalty”. It said:

“In addition to being continually exploited to satisfy [Epstein]’s every sexual whim, [Giuffre] was also required to be sexually exploited by [Epstein]’s adult male peers, including royalty, politicians, academicians, businessmen, and/or other professional and personal acquaintances.”

Rozenberg noted that although the agreement to withdraw that claim has only now been made public, lawyers in the case have known about its contents for months. Furthermore, he said it is just one of “several” arguments which Andrew’s team will use to try to have the claim dismissed.

Human rights lawyer Aamer Anwar said he did not believe the document was “water-tight” and Andrew may still be liable for prosecution.

“There is no reference to the prince, plus the alleged offence occurred in a jurisdiction which was not Florida as covered by the deal, which also relates to federal claims rather than state claims - complex but up to the judge,” he said.

Barrister and journalist Daniel Barnett said that the document is "internally inconsistent".  

He pointed to a paragraph which states: "[Giuffre] and [Epstein] agree that the terms of this Settlement Agreement are not intended to be used by any other person."

Cautioning that he was speaking about English law and not American, he said: "In my view, a UK judge would say that that is *not* an effective waiver of rights against third parties (Prince Andrew), as it is not sufficiently unambiguous to settle claims against other persons."

READ MORE: Virginia Giuffre's Epstein settlement 'irrelevant to case' against Prince Andrew

Reuters reported that Andrew’s lawyers had declined to comment on the release.

However, David Boies, an attorney for Giuffre, called the document "irrelevant" to the case against the prince.

He said: “The release does not mention Prince Andrew. He did not even know about it.

“The reason we sought to have the release made public was to refute the claims being made about it by Prince Andrew's PR campaign."

When will we know?

The hearing was scheduled for January 4. Judge Lewis Kaplan told both parties he would make a decision on whether to dismiss the case against Prince Andrew “very soon”.

Kaplan said: “I appreciate the arguments and the passion. You will have a decision very soon.”