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Removal of six-year limit for sexual assault

Date:30 JAN 2008

The House of Lords ruled today that, in cases of sexual assault, courts have a discretion to extend the limitation period imposed by the Limitation Act 1980 when it appears that it would be equitable to do so.

The six test cases before five law lords raised the question of whether claims for sexual assaults and abuse which took place many years before the commencement of proceedings were barred by the Limitation Act 1980.

One of the cases, the so-called Lotto rapist case, involved a woman, known as Mrs A, who was attacked by Iorworth Hoare who attempted to rape her in Leeds in 1988. He was sentenced to a life sentence for the attack and six other attacks on women he had also assaulted.

The Criminal Injuries Board awarded Mrs A £5,000 two years ago for the attempted rape. Mr Hoare had not been worth suing until he won £7 million on the National Lottery whilst on day release from prison. Having been unsuccessful in bringing a case for compensation against Mr Hoare in the High Court and the Court of Appeal, Mrs A was ordered to pay £100,000 to cover his legal fees. Mrs A's case, along with the others, will now go back to the courts to so they can be reconsidered.

The ruling opens the flood gates for thousands of victims of sexual abuse who are expected to bring claims for compensation against their attackers or their attackers' employers at the time of the incidents. Charities, local authorities and religious institutions are likely to face claims for millions of pounds.

To read the Newswatch case report click here.