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Chris Ford: Grand Old Duke of York Andrew in trouble again

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Chris Ford
Chris Ford

The old nursery rhyme 'The Grand Old Duke of York' recounts how an early Duke of York, Prince Frederick, led a disastrous military campaign in the early 19th century against another European army. It appears that his ancestor Prince Andrew may be keeping this nursery rhyme in mind as he uses armies of well-paid lawyers to try and stave off serious sex allegations.

If you've been following the story, the allegations are that Prince Andrew had sex with an underage woman, Virginia Roberts, who was at the time 17 years old and considered a minor under Florida law. She alleges that she was groomed to become part of a sex ring coordinated by Andrew's billionaire friend and convicted sex offender Jeffrey Epstein in 2001. In the last week, legal papers related to Roberts's civil case against Epstein have surfaced naming Andrew as a person she had sex with, even though the legal action doesn't currently involve the prince.

These allegations are just bloody serious. For Prince Andrew to have allegedly had sex with a minor AND to have purportedly been part of a sex ring is as bad as any criminal offending that can be alleged against anybody, save for rape, murder and drug trafficking. 

However, a whole army of well paid lawyers might ensure that he gets off the hook. It never ceases to amaze me how people of wealth can buy their way out of the justice system more readily than an ordinary pleb. Furthermore, this is a member of the British Royal Family and, given this factor, any further allegations will have a corrosive effect on the standing of the monarchy. This is especially so given that while the monarchy has regained support in recent years (especially following the marriage of William and Kate in 2011) we all know that it can erode with allegations of a sexual nature as it did during the 'Annus Mirabilis' year of 1992.

I only hope that Roberts keeps up her fight as her allegations need to come to court. Far too often, women and men who are the victims of sexual assault prefer to keep quite, especially if the person who offended against them is either influential and/or wealthy. I'm encouraged by the fact that Roberts is not going to back down and this could encourage other women to come forward. We've seen this same phenomenon play out in the cases of Jimmy Saville and Bill Cosby in recent times too - and we know that even absent any trip to a court, the reputations of those two men have suffered solely through the making of allegations (in Saville's case largely proven, in Cosby's case yet to be).

And damage to reputation by allegation is what will worry Buckingham Palace most. That's why they will do their utmost to defend Prince Andrew to the hilt. But what Roberts is showing is that she is prepared to challenge power and wealth, no matter how much she gets bullied by the system. For this reason alone, Roberts deserves all the support she can get so that the truth, whatever it is, can come out in a court of law.

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