5 Feb 2008

Abuse victims win historic ruling on compensation

The Independent - UK

February 5, 2008

By Robert Verkaik, Law Editor

Two young women have won a key ruling in their legal battle to secure compensation from the man who sexually abused them when they were children. The case is the first to benefit from last week's landmark House of Lords ruling against the man known as the "Lotto Rapist".

In the High Court yesterday a jugde granted an order freezing £200,000 of assets owned by Graham Pope, who was jailed in 2006 at Luton Crown Court for 20 indecent assaults on five girls between 1985 and 2000.

The judge said the women, one of whom is a university graduate and unable to work because of the psychological trauma associated with the abuse, had a good prospect of success in their claim against Pope.

Under the terms of the order the funds will be protected until the case has been fully heard.

Both women, who cannot be named, had been told that under the old law they could not sue Pope because they had not brought their claims within six years of their 18th birthdays. However, last week the law lords ruled that a 79-year-old retired teacher, known as Mrs A, should be paid compensation by Iorworth Hoare, who attacked her in Leeds in 1988 and has since won £7m in the Lotto competition. In the wake of the ruling, applications for compensation are now expected to target the assets of organisations, including the Catholic Church, involved in child abuse claims that were once ruled to be out of time.

The order yesterday, by Mr Justice Treacy, agreed to stop Pope from disposing of £200,000 worth of his property. Pope has denied having any financial means to make suing him worthwhile. But lawyers for the two women, both in their twenties and from Hertfordshire, told the court that Pope owns the property housing a Hyundai dealership in Hertfordshire which is currently being sold and is estimated to be worth £500,000.

Tracey Emmot, a specialist in child abuse law at the Luton-based Pictons solicitors, who is representing the women, said she was happy with the ruling.

"I am delighted that the court thinks that we have strong prospects of success and that its appropriate to freeze £200,000," said Ms Emmot. "One of the women has been unable to work because of the attack. She went to university but has since suffered a breakdown and is too ill to work.

"We hope to get compensation that will be put her in a position where this had never happened, if that is possible."

Ms Emmot said if the women won their claim it would be important because the court would have to assess the loss of potential earnings to her clients. She said she would now gather medical evidence to support the women's claims.

In last week's judgment, the law lords said that the courts should have unfettered discretion to allow compensation claims for sexual and other assaults to be brought, even if the time limit specified in the Limitation Act had expired.

Mrs A, who began her civil action against Hoare two years ago, had previously been ordered to pay her attacker's legal costs of £100,000 when her two previous attempts to bring a compensation case in the High Court and Court of Appeal failed. Mrs A received only £5,000 from the Criminal Injuries Compensation Board after the attack by Hoare 20 years ago. She says she still suffers from nightmares and claims the brutality of the attempted rape destroyed her self-esteem, wrecked her relationships and ruined her life.

Hoare was jailed for life in 1989 for the attack on Mrs A and spent 16 years in prison before winning £7m on Lotto Extra while on day release late in 2004.

He was freed on parole the following March and now lives in a £700,000 country house near Newcastle.

After the ruling, Mrs A said: "I genuinely thought I might die before I was able to see [Hoare] back in court. Now it feels as if justice is finally about to be done. No amount of money could mend the hurt he has inflicted on me. It was never about the money, it was about the justice, or injustice, in this case. I went through this case not just for myself but for all victims."

A spokesman for Pope's solicitors said that he was unable to comment on yesterday's ruling.


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