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Compensation law: Rape victim earns MBE after changing law on compensation for serious crimes

Shirley Woodman, an 82-year-old retired teacher who fought to change the law regarding the right to receive compensation for a serious crime has been awarded an MBE for services to the community in Yorkshire.

Mrs Woodman, previously known only as Mrs A for legal reasons, received the award as part of the Queen's New Year honours.

Mrs Woodman was attacked by Iorworth Hoare in Roundhay Park, Leeds in 1988. Mr Hoare was a serial sex attacker with previous convictions for rape, two other attempted rapes and three indecent assaults against his name. Mr Hoare was caught, and Mrs Woodman testified against him in court, evidence which helped secure his conviction and a life sentence for the attacks.

In 2004, Mr Hoare bought a Lotto Extra ticket whilst on day-release from prison. In a remarkable turn of events he scooped the main prize of some £7.2m. He was released from prison a year later to enjoy his winnings a free man.

Upon learning of his win, Mrs Woodman started a battle to win some compensation from Mr Hoare for the lifetime of psychological distress he caused his victims. Mr Hoare contested her claim, on the basis that more than six years had passed from the incident and that therefore Mrs Woodman was time-barred from bringing any legal claim over his winnings.

The case went all the way to the House of Lords, who decided to change the law to allow victims of serious assaults extra time to bring claims for compensation.

Mrs Woodman gave all the compensation she received to local charities.

"I felt that he was going to seek me out and wreak his vengeance on me because it was my evidence given in court which put him in prison," said Mrs Woodman.

"It was a fantastic struggle, a long and traumatic one which was very hard at times," she told the BBC. "But when we heard the decision from the Lords there was jubilation."

Mrs Woodman was nominated for the MBE by her daughter, who described her as "a woman of dignity, a woman of strength".

Related links:

Read more on the story (The Guardian)

Compensation for victims of crime (FindLaw)

Find local specialist solicitors throughout the UK (FindLaw)