The term Settlement has been in the news a lot recently following Ms Giuffre reaching the terms of a Settlement with Andrew, thought at one time to be the Queen’s favourite son. It is a dilemma faced by many litigants – whether they should settle their claim or have their day in court. Of course, their day in court may go terribly wrong, they could lose their case after racking up a significant legal bill but if it goes well, they could have public vindication and a finding of culpability against, in this case, the perpetrator of a serious crime.
Balancing the risks and considering the wider scope possible with a Settlement it can often be the best outcome. The victim takes back control and can sculpt the outcome with a far greater scope than a win in court. They can, as Ms Giuffre managed, ask for a “substantial donation to charity” supporting victims rights and an acknowledgment from the defendant. In this case, Andrew had to acknowledge that Ms Giuffre “suffered as an established victim of abuse” and of unfair public attacks (many of which, ironically, were perpetrated by him and his legal team). He also had to publicly state for the first time that he regrets his association with Jeffrey Epstein stating that he will demonstrate this by “supporting the fight against the evils of sex trafficking, and by supporting its victims”. This was a complete turnaround from his previous attempts to deny he regretted meeting Epstein (and who can forget that car crash of an interview) and to discredit Ms Giuffre. It was only earlier this year when his lawyers said he demanded a jury trial and tried several ways to get her claim kicked out of court and listed several reasons why she should not be believed. Yet, he did not go so far as to admit guilt. This should not be surprising. One of the main benefits of a Settlement for a defendant (or, in the Employment Tribunal, a Respondent) is that they rarely admit liability or guilt. This can sometimes frustrate a claimant who will want an acknowledgement of wrongdoing. However, in a Settlement both parties need to compromise on some level. For Andrew, acknowledging guilt was never going to happen – not only would it mean an even more catastrophic dent in his reputation but it would have opened the floodgates to further legal action against him including possible criminal proceedings.
Sometimes settlements are cloaked in complete secrecy, the defendant will demand that a fundamental term of any agreement is that no details are given, there is no statement and no acknowledgment of the amounts or that some is going to charity with the party line (and all that anyone is permitted to say under the Agreement) being “terms of settlement have been reached”.
In this case, Ms Giuffre and her legal team have managed to secure an almost “as good as you could hope for” outcome and they should be applauded for having taken on the highest of the establishment in the face of intense media scrutiny.