International & Commercial Litigation
Prince Andrew - Obtaining Evidence Abroad
Some more interesting legal issues arise in relation to the claims made by Virginia Giuffre against the Duke of York.
I do not propose to examine the merits or otherwise of the claim, but will confine myself to legal issues relating to procedure.
The media reports that Virginia Giuffre is seeking to take evidence in England from Prince Andrew’s former equerry, who, her lawyers say, has knowledge of Prince Andrew’s relationship with Jeffrey Epstein, as well as someone who reportedly saw Prince Andrew with Virginia Giuffre in a nightclub in London. The evidence requested seems to be relevant and the proposed witnesses of fact should be able to provide testimony relevant to the issues in the case. Clearly the former equerry and other members or former members of staff and Prince Andrew’s entourage should be able to furnish background as to his relationship with Epstein and the dates when he was with Epstein (and therefore potentially Ms Giuffre).
On the other hand, the Defendant, Prince Andrew, is apparently seeking to take evidence from Ms Giuffre’s husband and therapist in Australia. Apart from potential issues of privilege whereby a spouse or therapist may not be legally compellable to give evidence in relation to a spouse or patient, the request may well fall foul of the requirement that the examination must be confined to eliciting evidence for trial and cannot extend to US style oral discovery by deposition.
In this context it is interesting to look at some recent decisions.
Australia has also lodged a reservation pursuant to Article 23 of the Hague Evidence Convention that it will not execute Letters of Request issued for the purpose of obtaining pre-trial discovery of documents as known in common law countries.
Given that Ms Giuffre’s husband and therapist only had communications with her after the time period when the relevant events are alleged to have taken place, and those potential witnesses could only furnish hearsay evidence, such requests may also be found by the Australian Court to be irrelevant and oppressive.
The weight of any such evidence is questionable. The tactics in seeking such evidence are not attractive and the optics do not reflect well on the person making those requests, especially given his position as a member of the Royal Family.
Steven has been involved in a number of the leading cases on enforcement of foreign judgments in England and obtaining evidence in England for use in foreign proceedings. He has also given expert evidence to foreign courts in these areas of law.