Rape victims welcome change in the law

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A recent decision by the Law Lords is likely to help victims of rape and sexual assault.

Mrs A has been given the go-ahead to bring a claim for compensation against Iorworth Hoare, who was jailed for life for attempted rape and sexual assault in 1989. Shortly after the assault Mrs A successfully applied for damages under the Criminal Injuries Compensation Scheme but was only awarded £5,000, despite her significant psychological injuries. At the time of the attack Hoare himself was not worth suing as he did not have the financial means to compensate his victim.

But whilst on day release from prison, Hoare purchased a lucky Lotto Extra ticket and found himself £7m better off. Mrs A learned of his windfall and brought a claim against him for compensation. However, she was outside the strict 6 year limitation period and a High Court Judge and the Court of Appeal rejected her claim. Mrs A didn’t give up. She appealed to the House of Lords and her persistence paid off when the Law Lords reversed the ruling and allowed her case to be reheard in the High Court.

This is a landmark decision for victims of sexual assault. It opens the way for them to bring claims beyond the usual 6 year time period, so long as they act quickly once they learn of any change in the finances of their attacker.

In reality this ruling is unlikely to help most victims as it is relatively rare for an abuser to come into money, but if it does happen the way is now open for victims to make a deserved claim on the windfall.

Samantha Robson is a partner at Slee Blackwell and is recognised in the Legal 500 as a specialist personal injury lawyer in the sensitive area of rape and sexual assault.