LONDON, England (CNN) -- Britain's highest court decided Wednesday that a rapist who won the lottery while in prison may be sued by his victim even though the statute of limitations ran out 20 years ago.
The decision by the Law Lords effectively changes British law, giving victims of deliberate assault the right to sue after the current six-year limit expires, the woman and her attorney said.
The elderly victim, identified only as Mrs. A, said through her attorney that she was "delighted and relieved" at the decision.
Iorworth Hoare was serving a life sentence for the 1988 rape of Mrs. A when, in 2004, he bought a single lottery ticket while on day release. Hoare won £7 million, which at the time was worth about $13 million.
Mrs A, who hadn't previously brought a case against Hoare, decided he was now worth suing -- but the law prevented her from seeking damages because the statute of limitations had expired.
She took her case all the way to the Law Lords, who ruled Wednesday that she should be allowed to sue.
"I'm both delighted and relieved that my appeal to the House of Lords has been successful and that I have succeeded in changing a law which will provide others in the future with a means of achieving justice," said Mrs. A, in a statement read by her lawyer, Sandra Baker.
"It was this, rather than financial gain, which motivated me to begin this process two years ago."
Under previous law, victims of deliberate assault -- like Mrs. A -- only had six years in which to sue their attacker, after which no legal action was allowed.
Victims of negligent assault had only three years in which to sue but were allowed to appeal for more time.
Wednesday's decision by the Law Lords allows victims of deliberate assault the same right to sue their attackers after the time limit has expired.
"It is to be hoped that my claim for damages against Iorworth Hoare will now be brought to a speedy conclusion without the need for me to enter a further protracted litigation," Mrs. A's statement read.
"I hope that many others in the future will be able to benefit from the change in the law which I helped bring about."
The House of Lords is the final court of appeal in the United Kingdom for civil cases. Judgments are made by a group of lords called the Law Lords, and it is rare for them to decide on changes to the law. E-mail to a friend
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