A US judge has ruled that sex allegations made against Prince Andrew in court papers filed in Florida must be struck from the public record.
The Duke of York and Buckingham Palace strenuously denied the allegations in the court documents that he sexually abused a 17-year-old girl who claimed she was used as a sex slave.
Kenneth Marra, the federal district judge in West Palm Beach, has now rejected a bid by two women to join a lawsuit against the US government over its handling of the case of Jeffrey Epstein, a billionaire financier and convicted paedophile.
He ordered that the claims made by one of the women involving the Duke and several prominent Americans in the filings lodged by her lawyer must be removed from the court record.
The Duke was never accused of any offence and he strenuously denied the claims of the woman, who was referred to in court papers as Jane Doe 3 but who later identified herself as Virginia Roberts, now 31. A Palace official confirmed that the Prince has been briefed on the latest developments.
She was one of several women who claimed that they were sexually abused as underage teenagers by Epstein and passed for use as sex slaves by his acquaintances at parties at various locations, including his Palm Beach mansion and a private Caribbean island.
Ms Roberts and the second unnamed woman wanted to join a lawsuit filed by two other alleged victims against the US government to force the re-opening of a non-prosecution deal struck by federal prosecutors with Epstein.
Under the agreement, the investment banker pleaded guilty in 2008 to state sex offences and served 13 months of an 18-month jail sentence – a much shorter term than he could have faced in a federal prosecution.
Judge Marra has now ruled that too much time has passed since the original lawsuit for the two new women to add their names to the case.
He also said that sex abuse allegations had no bearing on the lawsuit’s goal of reopening the Epstein non-prosecution agreement.
“The factual details regarding with whom and where the Jane Does engaged in sexual activities are immaterial and impertinent to this central claim,” the judge wrote. “These unnecessary details shall be stricken.”
If the Epstein case is reopened, he could face a federal prosecution and the US government could be forced to pay the women damages. The financer has already reached out-of-court financial settlements with dozens of victims.
The Duke was not a party to the court action and was not given the opportunity to rebut the allegations through the court.
Buckingham Palace broke with its usual policy of refusing to comment on current court cases because of the nature of the allegations and their emergence in the public domain in the court filings in late December.
“This relates to long-running and ongoing civil proceedings in the US to which the Duke of York is not a party,” a spokesman said.
“As such we would not comment on the detail. However, for the avoidance of doubt, any suggestion of impropriety with underage minors is categorically untrue.”
The Duke also referred to the allegations in a brief comment at the World Economic Forum in Davos in January. “I just wish to reiterate and to reaffirm the statements which have already been made on my behalf by Buckingham Palace,” he said. “My focus is on my work.”
The Duke of York will spend this week privately before resuming public engagements on Monday.