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What are the legal implications of Andrew’s offer to make a statement?

The duke would need to clarify what his rights are under US law in relation to any statement he would be giving.

The Duke of York (Michel Euler/PA)
The Duke of York (Michel Euler/PA)

By Tony Jones, PA Court Correspondent

The Duke of York has said he is willing to help any “law enforcement agency with their investigations” into his former friend, the convicted sex offender Jeffrey Epstein.

Here we answer some of the questions relating to the legal implications of Andrew’s offer to make a statement.

– What happens if US authorities contact the duke asking for a statement?

If the duke is willing to comply with the FBI’s request, they would arrange a date, time and place to speak to him, probably through the duke’s lawyers.

This voluntary arrangement means US investigators can travel to the UK without having to follow any formal procedures.

But as a courtesy they will notify the National Crime Agency they will be conducting part of their investigation on UK soil.

– Where would the meeting take place?

The duke could make his statement at a number of venues, from the US embassy in London to a lawyer’s office and potentially even a royal residence like Buckingham Palace.

But he is likely to pick somewhere he feels most comfortable.

– What will happen during the meeting when the statement is taken?

Andrew’s lawyers are likely to advise him to take some control of the process.

So he may request the questions in advance, and ask whether he is being considered as a witness or potential suspect.

The duke would also need to clarify what his rights are under US law in relation to the statement he would be giving.

– What happens if Andrew decides not to give evidence voluntarily?

The US authorities could make a mutual legal assistance (MLA) request to the UK, a formal process that allows co-operation between states when evidence needs to gathered in a prosecution or investigation of criminal offences.

If the FBI are treating the duke as a witness they could ask for him to be compelled to go to a UK court to give evidence under oath.

If he was being treated as a potential suspect, or received legal advice he might incriminate himself, he would have privilege against self-incrimination.

So Andrew would have to appear at court, but could not be compelled to give evidence.

In practical terms, when it is known an individual has been advised not to incriminate themselves, the MLA request will not made.

– Can the lawyers representing some of Jeffrey Epstein’s alleged victims take part in the interview process?

No, as they are involved in a civil matter – claims for damages made against Epstein’s estate.

But they could ask the FBI to share the results of Andrew’s interview with them. The duke may be advised to ask if his statement will be shared with these lawyers.

– Does the process end here?

No, the FBI could request further interviews to ask follow-up questions, if their investigation develops and new leads come to light.

But at some point Andrew’s legal team will want what is known as a “letter of comfort” from the US authorities, saying he is not a person of interest to the investigation and is a “witness of fact” only.

PA

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