Prince Andrew accused of ‘victim blaming’ over tactics in sex assault trial

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The prince’s legal team said Virginia Giuffre may be suffering from ‘false memories’  (AFP/Getty)
The prince’s legal team said Virginia Giuffre may be suffering from ‘false memories’ (AFP/Getty)

Prince Andrew has been accused of “victim blaming” after new court documents revealed that his lawyers have demanded to see Virginia Giuffre’s mental health records and confidential notes from counselling sessions.

The Duke of York’s legal team has asked to interview Dr Judith Lightfoot, a psychologist, and Ms Giuffre’s husband Robert under oath to obtain information relating to “alleged emotional and psychological harm and damages”.

In the new court documents, his lawyers suggest that Ms Giuffre’s civil action against Prince Andrew, accusing him of sexually abusing her when she was a teenager, may be based on “false memories”.

Ms Giuffre claims to have been abused by Prince Andrew on three separate occasions – in London, in New York, and on Epstein’s private island in the Caribbean. The Duke of York vehemently denies all allegations against him.

Dr Charlotte Proudman, a barrister and Cambridge academic specialising in violence against women, accused the duke of “gaslighting victims of trauma”, adding that his lawyers’ behaviour is “the ultimate in victim-blaming”.

She said: “A lot of victims of abuse understandably reach out for therapeutic support.

“[Andrew’s lawyers] are trying to discredit her. They are trying to find something she might have said to the psychologist that potentially undermines the claims she has made or to show potential inconsistencies.”

Dr Proudman called it one of “the lowest forms of tactics that can be used”.

Nazir Afzal, the former chief prosecutor in the Rochdale grooming scandal, said: “[The] problem with Prince Andrew’s attempt to get his accuser’s therapy records to suggest that she has ‘false memory’ is that Epstein admitted to abusing her, hence the settlement.

“The records will show she was traumatised like all abuse victims. Finally, it smacks of desperation.”

Anna Birley, of the Reclaim These Streets campaign group for women’s safety, added: “It should never be a question of how the victim behaves, what she wears, how much she drank or what she shared with her therapist. Abuse is never OK and the focus should be on the actions of the perpetrator.”

A similar strategy was attempted unsuccessfully by Ghislaine Maxwell against Ms Giuffre and other child sex abuse victims.

As Prince Andrew’s case looks set to head to trial later this year, he no longer holds his honorary military titles or royal patronages after being stripped of them earlier this week. He has also faced calls to lose his Duke of York title.

The Daily Mirror reported that the duke was left tearful after being told by the Queen he was being stripped of the roles.

A plaque in honour of Prince Andrew has also been removed from a wall at Torquay Police Station in Devon following a public complaint.

Senior officers said they took the decision to remove the plaque in line with the duke being stripped of his military titles along with the right to have His Royal Highness in front of his name.

Ms Giuffre’s lawyers are requesting testimonies from Robert Olney – Andrew’s former equerry, a royal’s personal assistant – and a woman called Shukri Walker, who claims to have seen the duke in Tramp nightclub in London, where Ms Giuffre said she went with him in 2001.

The documents say Ms Walker has stated publicly that she was a witness to Andrew’s presence at Tramp nightclub with a young woman who may have been Ms Giuffre.