Prince to break silence on sex scandal
Prince Andrew has enlisted the help of one of Britain’s top defence barristers after being accused of sleeping with an under-age “sex slave”, the Mail has learned.
The Duke of York faces extraordinary claims - which he strongly denies - that he had sex with a 17-year-old American girl who was being paid by his friend, the convicted paedophile Jeffrey Epstein.
This week, he will attend the meeting of the World Economic Forum in Davos, his first public appearance since the allegations by Virginia Roberts in a US lawsuit.
It is thought he may use a televised address at the summit to address the claims directly - although aides insist he simply wants to “get on with it” after the scandal.
But the fifth in line to the throne has quietly consulted the eminent QC William Clegg, nicknamed the “grandfather of the bar”.
Mr Clegg is understood to be reading papers handed to him by the duke’s team on Friday, January 8. It is not known what he has been asked to do or who is paying the bill, if any. But it raises the possibility that Andrew is preparing for some sort of legal fightback.
American Alan Dershowitz, one of Epstein’s lawyers who Miss Roberts claims also had sex with her, is countersuing and has issued a detailed rebuttal. He has suggested the duke do the same. Andrew will travel to Davos, in Switzerland, on Thursday before making a defiant public address at the annual drinks reception he holds at the conference.
The 54-year-old has refused to cancel his plans and, unusually, will reportedly face a TV camera. Normally his drinks event receives little media attention, but this year officials have been forced to plan how to manage large numbers of journalists.
The palace last night refused to comment on the suggestion that Andrew would issue an outright denial of the claims.
His decision to attend has drawn criticism from some, including former Home Office minister Norman Baker. The Liberal Democrat told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: “It may have been more prudent . . . for him not to have gone. He may have taken that decision himself. When MPs go abroad, or ministers, or indeed the Queen, we know exactly what role they are undertaking. We don’t know with Andrew.”
He said some of the duke’s friends were “not [what] someone representing Britain ought to be having”.
Sir Menzies Campbell, the former Lib Dem leader, said it was a time for “discretion rather than distraction”, while Katy Clark, Willie Bain and Ann McKechin, Labour MPs on the Commons business committee, are said to have suggested that he stay away. Republic, which campaigns for an alternative to the monarchy, said last night: “Regardless of the truth of the allegations, his association with Epstein and others has made his position untenable.”
But Lord Digby Jones, former head of the CBI and Labour minister, said he should go, adding: “This guy has done nothing until someone proves he has. To my knowledge no one has charged him with anything.”
Mr Clegg, whose website says he is a specialist in “white collar fraud”, represented Vincent Tabak, who was jailed for life for killing Joanna Yeates in Bristol in December 2010. He also acted for Lord Edward Somerset, the Duke of Beaufort’s son, who admitted beating his wife.
Andrew emphatically denies any sexual relations with Miss Roberts, who claims she was Epstein’s “sex slave” from 1999 to 2002 and was “forced to have sexual relations with this prince” in London, New York and a Caribbean island. Buckingham Palace has issued two denials on behalf of the duke, calling the claims “categorically untrue”. He has yet to comment personally and has spent much of this month keeping a low profile at Royal Lodge, his home in Windsor.
He is understood to be working on his speech, which will be largely aimed at promoting UK business.
“He may, briefly, address some of the issues we have seen aired in recent weeks, but claims that it will be a major televised rebuttal of what has been alleged are very overblown,” a source said. The Mail understands Andrew will stay on after the reception to attend scheduled sessions on Friday as part of a “business as usual strategy”.
“He has work to do and wants to get on with it,” the source said.
“That’s not to say he hasn’t been chastened by what has happened. He has openly acknowledged his enormous error of judgment over his friendship with Jeffrey Epstein.” - Daily Mail