Nora Wall
Nora Wall
Nora Wall (born 1948) is a former Irish nun of the Sisters of Mercy who was wrongfully convicted of rape in June 1999, and served four days of a life sentence in July 1999, before her conviction was quashed. She was officially declared the victim of a miscarriage of justice in December 2005. The wrongful conviction was based on false allegations by two women in their 20s, Regina Walsh (born 8 January 1978) and Patricia Phelan (born 1973).
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    FIFTIES
  • 2005
    Age 57
    An Irish Times editorial on 17 December 2005 entitled "Nora Wall" stated that: The charges were laid at a time when allegations of the abuse of children in institutions had entered the public domain.
    More Details Hide Details The case was heard within a month of the broadcast by RTÉ of the States of Fear programmes. The jury could not but have been affected, it seems, by the horrific abuse exposed in that series and by the complaints of the child victims that no-one listened to them. Wall told teacher and religious affairs journalist Breda O'Brien that she has no doubt that the atmosphere generated by States of Fear was a central factor in the jury's willingness to believe the allegations. In addition, the opinion of the Irish Times is significant as in 1999 Mary Raftery was both a columnist for the Times and a senior producer/director with RTÉ.
    Carol Coulter, legal affairs correspondent for the Irish Times wrote on 1 December 2005 that "case took place at a time of heightened sensitivity to the problem of the sexual abuse of children in institutions, especially those run by religious orders.
    More Details Hide Details The RTÉ series States of Fear had ended a month earlier, generating widespread debate and indignation."
    The December 2005 judgement of the Court of Criminal Appeal underlined these links when the judges pointed out that "the police officer who had taken Phelan's statement in respect of Nora Wall was the same police officer who investigated the earlier false complaints made by her against her uncle and against the Kilkenny man."
    More Details Hide Details However Jim Higgins calls for an inquiry were ignored and this issue was quickly dropped by the media. The case of Nora Wall and Pablo McCabe established a number of extraordinary precedents in Irish law.
    On 1 December 2005 the Court of Criminal Appeal finally certified that Wall had been the victim of a miscarriage of justice.
    More Details Hide Details After her acquittal Nora Wall was asked by journalist Kevin Moore what she planned to do with the rest of her life: Well, I suppose to be practical and realistic people at my age are taking early retirement and being made redundant. And you know, what employer wants a person like me? They will ask what you have done for the last three years. I signed on twice a day at the garda station, had 32 court appearances, had a six-day trial in the Central Criminal Court, four days of a life sentence in the Joy, you know, what employer wants that? Wall described how she felt after she was arrested: I could not understand what they were saying to me at first. When they said "rape", I said that I was never raped. And it did not make sense. Then, they said that it happened in St. Michael's in Coiscéim. And it still did not make sense to me. And then they said, Regina Walsh... I was still turning around in my head how this could be. And then they mentioned Paul McCabe. That did not make sense at all to me. And then, when they told me what was supposed to have happened, I said, "Look, I could not think like that, never mind do a thing like that"... It was a full 11 months afterwards that I got the book of evidence.
    On 1 December 2005, the Court of Criminal Appeal in Ireland certified that Wall had been the victim of a miscarriage of justice.
    More Details Hide Details McCabe had died in December 2002. The events took place following the airing of the documentary, States of Fear. A 2005 editorial in The Irish Times suggested that the programme influenced jury members and may have played a role in the miscarriage of justice against Nora Wall.
    She was officially declared the victim of a miscarriage of justice in December 2005.
    More Details Hide Details The wrongful conviction was based on false allegations by two women in their 20s, Regina Walsh (born 8 January 1978) and Patricia Phelan (born 1973). Walsh had a psychiatric history and Phelan had a history of making false allegations of rape prior to the event. Phelan subsequently admitted to having lied. Wall was the first woman in the history of the Irish State to be convicted of rape, the first person to receive a life sentence for rape and the only person in the history of the state to be convicted on repressed memory evidence. Her co-accused Pablo McCabe was a homeless schizophrenic man. In relation to one of the two rape allegations, the defence showed that McCabe could not possibly have been there on the date in question. The jury acquitted McCabe on that count, and convicted him and Wall on the second rape charge.
  • 2003
    Age 55
    His remains were kept in the mortuary of the Mater until the family could travel. His mother and his stepfather attended the funeral in the Franciscan Church in Merchant's Quay, Dublin on 14 January 2003.
    More Details Hide Details On 16 December 2005 the three judges of the Court of Criminal Appeal gave detailed reasons for their decision. They began by providing a summary of the legal background as follows (minor editorial changes have been made for the purpose of clarity):
  • 2000
    Age 52
    The focus on the States of Fear programmes may explain why - apart from news reports on trial days - RTÉ's coverage of the scandal was confined to a 30-minute programme in the Would You Believe series on 11 January 2000.
    More Details Hide Details On 28 November 1999, the Sunday Independent published an article entitled "Judge reflects a nation's outrage" by columnist Emer O'Kelly. The title refers to the sentencing by Judge Anthony Murphy of a Brother of Charity to 36 years imprisonment for the physical and sexual abuse of children. However the article contains these words about the Nora Wall case: When the former Mercy nun Nora Wall was vindicated, and an announcement was made that she was not to be retried for rape, there was an outcry from some members of the public about the way she had been vilified before her conviction was set aside. The horrible reality of our society is that so many appalling crimes of abuse of children by Catholic religious have been proved in the courts that many people are inclined to believe that no cleric, man or woman, accused of such crimes can possibly be innocent. And that is not the fault of public opinion. It is in large measure the fault of the religious authorities who seem more concerned with limiting the damage to their own reputations and standing than in acknowledging their collective guilt and active negligence.
  • 1999
    Age 51
    In the book Suffer the Little Children published in November 1999 as a follow up to her TV series, Mary Raftery and her co-author Eoin O'Sullivan wrote: Dear Daughter concerned the experiences at Goldenbridge Industrial School, Dublin of Christine Buckley, who grew up there during the 1950s.
    More Details Hide Details She had suffered horrific abuse, and descriptions were also given of the systematic ill-treatment of other children by the Sisters of Mercy, who ran the school. These included memories of children being routinely and savagely beaten, having boiling water poured over them, being locked in a furnace room, being forced to stand all night in a corridor as punishment, and very young children being made to sit on potties so long that in some cases their rectums collapsed. The authors go on to say that "the programme produced an enormous response, most of it horrified at the deeply shocking nature of the abuse outlined," However they also acknowledge that the Sisters of Mercy had their defenders and that after the programme two sisters who were at Goldenbridge gave different accounts of one alleged episode. However they conclude that: "Three years later, the testimony of severe abuse in industrial schools is now so overwhelmingly consistent, that the 'false memory' line of argument has not been repeated in relation to the flood of accounts of abuse during 1999."
    When details of the DPP's report on the blunders in the Nora Wall case were released by the Attorney General's office on 17 November 1999, there were no references to the documentation linking the Chief State Solicitor's Office to both cases.
    More Details Hide Details The report failed to explain why the DPP did not want Ms Phelan called as a witness. The DPP's statement said only that she was mistakenly called because prosecuting counsel "failed to recall" an earlier direction not to call her. In his decision in the judicial review of the original Phelan case on 5 January 1997, Mr Justice McCracken said: "While I have great sympathy for two women, I have to say that I was not particularly impressed with their evidence." He added, however, that this was "not a deciding factor" in his decision to prevent the DPP from taking the man to trial. Liz Allen quoted Fine Gael's justice spokesman, Jim Higgins, as stating that the establishment of this link between the case originally taken by Ms Phelan and the Wall case merited a judicial inquiry "to investigate the role of Gardaí and the Chief State Solicitor's Office." Higgins continued: "There now has to be a full inquiry into the roles of all of the agencies involved, the role of the Chief State Solicitor's Office, the DPP's Office and the Gardaí must be investigated further. We must question the ability of these people to conduct their jobs when such gross incompetence occurred in the Wall case with regard to the inadvertent calling of Ms Phelan as a witness."
    The Court of Criminal Appeal on 22 November 1999 the DPP accepted "fully and ungrudgingly" that former nun Wall and McCabe are entitled to be presumed innocent of all charges brought against them.
    More Details Hide Details At the court hearing a lawyer for the DPP said he "very much regrets the errors which occurred in relation to the handling of this case by the prosecution" which led to the successful appeal. The DPP's statement outlined the sequence of events from the decision to prosecute on 24 April 1997 up to their release by the Court of Criminal Appeal, initially on bail, in July just days after they had been sentenced to life and 12 years respectively. It explained how the prosecution came to call Patricia Phelan as witness, despite an earlier direction by the DPP made in April 1997 that she should not be called. Denis Vaughan Buckley SC, for the DPP, read a prepared statement. He said the DPP had considered the transcript of evidence that was given at the trial together with additional information obtained by the Gardaí and had concluded that it would not be proper to proceed with his application for a retrial. He added: I am instructed to emphasise that the director's concern to defend the propriety of the decision to charge the two accused does not in any sense detract from the fact, which is fully and ungrudgingly accepted by the director, that the two accused are entitled to be presumed innocent of all the charges which were brought, not only those of which they were acquitted by the jury but also of those which were set aside and which are not to be the subject of further proceedings.
    On 23 July 1999 Wall and McCabe came before Judge Paul Carney for sentencing in the Central Criminal Court.
    More Details Hide Details Their counsel, Hugh Hartnett, sought an adjournment or a stay on any sentence. He told the court that there appeared to have been a grave breach of non-disclosure of evidence by the state. The state had not disclosed that Walsh alleged she had been raped in London. Neither had they disclosed that Phelan's allegations against an unnamed man had been dismissed in judicial review proceedings. However Mr. Denis Vaughan Buckley for the state said that the Gardaí were not aware of these matters during their investigations, and rejected the claim that there had not been full disclosure of evidence, saying that these issues were not relevant to the case. Passing sentence, the judge spoke of Wall's betrayal of the young girl. "This was a gang rape," he said. "The leader of the gang was the only person in the world who was charged with the protection of Regina Walsh. I don't think I need to say more than that." He sentenced her to life imprisonment and McCabe to 12 years. The hearing was not held in camera, as he said that Walsh and Phelan had forfeited their anonymity through newspaper interviews published since the trial.
    Nora Wall and Pablo McCabe were convicted on 10 June 1999; Regina Walsh gave her famous interview to The Star on 17 June including her allegation about being raped in London; the Kilkenny businessman recognised the name of Patricia Phelan and contacted the defence but still the DPP remained in ignorance of the facts.
    More Details Hide Details At the sentencing hearing on 23 July the DPP refused the defence's application for an adjournment and denied that the newly discovered evidence was relevant. Finally Judge Paul Carney made his comments about Nora Wall and gave her an unprecedented sentence of life imprisonment. Nora Wall and Pablo McCabe were originally accused in 1996 shortly after the broadcast by RTÉ of the TV documentary "Dear Daughter" in February of that year; they were convicted in June 1999 one month after RTÉ's broadcast of the States of Fear series produced by Mary Raftery. It is widely acknowledged that Nora Wall was convicted because of the atmosphere generated by the States of Fear series (see States of Fear subsection below). It is also accepted - not least by Mary Raftery herself - that "Dear Daughter" was an important predecessor to States of Fear.
    On 21 November 1999, Liz Allen, crime correspondent for the Sunday Independent wrote that the Chief State Solicitor's Office which dealt with the Nora Wall, case also dealt with a previous case involving a sexual assault allegation by Patricia Phelan, the woman who was later mistakenly called as a witness against Nora Wall.
    More Details Hide Details In the Patricia Phelan case in 1997 (in which she accused the Kilkenny businessman), Mr Justice McCracken carried out a High Court judicial review and decided that there should not be a trial. The state asked for time to consider whether it would appeal this decision, but three weeks later, the then DPP, Eamon Barnes, ordered the Chief State Solicitor's Office to return to court to say it did not wish to proceed any further with the case it was taking on behalf of Patricia Phelan and another woman.
    After the Nora Wall case however, Mr Justice Carney struck some rather different notes. In 1999, Carney told a seminar in South Africa that some alleged victims of rape might be pressured into continuing with complaints they were reluctant to pursue. "Such pressure could come from parents, boyfriends, policemen, prosecutors, rape crisis centres and victim support counsellors," he said. "I have no way of knowing whether such pressure exists, but I would be very concerned if it does, particularly in relation to those cases which can be profiled as unlikely to result in a conviction." In April 2003, at a Women Lawyers' Association conference, Carney dismissed the claim of the director of the Rape Crisis Centre (RCC) that there was no such thing as a false sexual charge. "This is not the experience of the courts," he said. "In relation to the balance of rape cases which are contested, there is a majority of acquittals."
    More Details Hide Details The judge also criticised an RCC counsellor for suggesting in a victim impact statement that the severity of sentence imposed on a rapist would determine the degree to which the victim became "reconciled with the justice system". Carney said it was a "serious abuse of process" for the author of a victim impact report to use it to campaign for a heavy sentence. The former director of the Rape Crisis Centre, Olive Braiden, clashed with Carney at the conference. "He launched into a criticism of a senior counsel who was not present, and I said I regretted that he had raised the matter in her absence," she said. The above examples are taken from a detailed profile of Mr Justice Paul Carney in The Sunday Business Post on 13 April 2003, written by barrister and author Kieron Wood. The article is entitled "Judge With One Eye On The Media". It includes some critical comments and notes that "His time on the bench was marked by controversy". Nevertheless, it contains no reference to the case of Nora Wall and Pablo McCabe.
    On 27 July 1999, Nora Wall brought a bail application before the Court of Criminal Appeal, at which point senior counsel on behalf of the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) conveyed to that court the DPPs consent to the granting of leave to appeal, and further consented that the appeal be allowed and that a retrial be directed.
    More Details Hide Details This startling turn of events was referable to (a) the inadvertent calling as a witness on behalf of the prosecution, Patricia Phelan, a person whom the DPP had specifically directed should not be so called at the trial and (b) matters regarding the complainant, Regina Walsh, which had not been disclosed to the lawyers representing the applicant prior to trial. On 22 November 1999, counsel for the DPP indicated to the court of criminal appeal that the DPP was not proceeding with an application for a retrial. Counsel further indicated that the DPP “fully and ungrudgingly” accepted that the applicant was entitled to be presumed innocent of all charges preferred against her. The court accordingly quashed the conviction of Nora Wall and the sentences imposed in respect thereof. In the main body of the judgement, the three judges went on to find that, due to the withholding of important information by the prosecution, including the investigating police, at the trial stage, it was not until appeal that the court heard a substantial body of significant evidence that had not been disclosed to the defence.
    On 23 July 1999, she was sentenced by the Central Criminal Court to imprisonment for life for the offence of rape and to 5 years imprisonment for indecent assault.
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    On 10 June 1999, Nora Wall was convicted by the Central Criminal Court of rape contrary to common law and of indecent assault contrary to common law as punishable by s.10 of the Criminal Law (Rape) Act, 1981.
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    In fact, neither McCabe’s nor Wall’s defence teams received notification of this second charge until 28 May 1999, only six days before hearings began, and two years after they were initially charged.
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  • FORTIES
  • 1997
    Age 49
    The Sunday Independent obtained documentation dated May 1997, which shows that the Chief State Solicitor's Office wrote to the solicitor for the Kilkenny businessman in the case taken on behalf of Ms Phelan, providing a list of witnesses who had made statements which the state intended to use in its case.
    More Details Hide Details This list included the name of Nora Wall.
    In May 1997 she was formally charged.
    More Details Hide Details She had to sign on at a Garda station twice a day and lived on social welfare. McCabe was arrested on the same day in October 1996. Both Gardaí who interviewed him admitted, at the trial, to making no notes, and under pressure of questioning from defence counsel, also admitted that McCabe did not dictate a statement as they originally suggested, but responded to questions. This is in breach of regulations, which allow only minor clarifying questions during the taking of statements. McCabe had signed two statements that were strange in the way they were formulated. For example, part of the first statement says, "I told Sr. Dominic what had happened the night before in Regina’s room. I told her I had intimate relationships with her, meaning Regina. She said to me I was like St. Augustine."
  • 1996
    Age 48
    On 5 November 1996, she "corrected" her statement to state that it was not the day of her 12th birthday, but of the celebration of her 12th birthday some days before or after that date, that the alleged assault took place.
    More Details Hide Details At the trial, witnesses were produced to show that there was no man present at the birthday party. On 11 June 1999 an RTÉ television news announcer stated that on the previous day A 51-year-old former Sister of Mercy, has been found guilty of raping a 10-year-old girl. Nora Wall, originally from the Nire Valley, had been the victim's guardian while the child was in care at St. Michael's Centre in Cappoquin in County Waterford. Nora Wall's co-accused, Paul McCabe, a homeless man, was also found guilty of rape. Both have been remanded on bail, for sentencing in July. The victim was placed in care in St. Michael's when she was 6 years of age. When she was ten, she was raped by Paul McCabe, a homeless man who visited Nora Wall at St. Michael's. The victim told the jury that the nun held her legs while the man raped her. Both Paul McCabe and Nora Wall denied the charges. The pair were acquitted of a second count of raping the same child in 1990. The jury had heard conflicting evidence surrounding the dates of the alleged offence.
    In October 1996, she was arrested in Dublin and questioned about allegations made by Regina Walsh, whom she had cared for from the age of eight.
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    In 1996, she worked in a St. Vincent de Paul shelter for homeless men.
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    In February 1996 RTÉ broadcast "Dear Daughter" - Louis Lentin's TV documentary about alleged abuse in St Vincent’s residential school, Goldenbridge, Dublin which was run by the Sisters of Mercy.
    More Details Hide Details It featured the story of Christine Buckley who had been there in the 1950s. The documentary concentrated on allegations made against one Mercy nun Sister Xavieria. The programme claimed that, on one occasion, Christine Buckley had been caned by Sister Xavieria so severely that the entire side of her leg was split open from her hip to her knee. She said that she was treated in the casualty department of the local hospital and believes that she received 80 to 120 stitches. No medical evidence has ever been produced to support this claim. The surgeon who ran the casualty department at the hospital has made a statement which renders it highly unlikely that such an incident ever took place. The surgeon pointed out that caning would not have caused a wound of this kind, which would have required surgical treatment under a general anaesthetic and not stitches in a casualty department.
  • 1990
    Age 42
    The second major charge against the two accused was that they had raped Regina Walsh in on 8 January 1990 on the girl's 12th birthday.
    More Details Hide Details The outcome was that the jury found the two accused innocent on that rape charge but convicted them on the other—the alleged rape that took place at least two years prior to the birthday party. After the conviction the media used vicious language about Wall in particular - "Vile Nun", "Pervert Nun", "Mercy Devil", "I was Raped by Anti-Christ". On 11 July 1999, the Sunday World carried a front page "exclusive" by crime correspondent Paul Williams. Entitled "Rape Nuns Abuse Pact with Smyth", it claimed that Evil nun Nora Wall, convicted for helping to rape a ten-year-old child, also secretly provided children for sick paedophile priest Father Brendan Smyth. The Sunday World has learned that depraved cleric regularly visited St. Michael's Childcare Centre in County Waterford where Wall - then known as Sister Dominic - was working. A female counsellor who works with the victims of this horror home revealed that Fr. Brendan Smyth may have abused children there... said "the information is very reliable and also very disturbing". A few years later, Wall was to win EUR175,000 libel damages from the Sunday World. That news received little attention from the media.
    At the trial a Garda claimed that he did not know that McCabe suffered from schizophrenia, and said that he didn’t see what difference knowing whether he did or not would have made. McCabe made a further statement, concerning the night of Regina Walsh's 12th birthday party on the 8th of January 1990. The alleged rape on 8 January 1990 was the only charge on which McCabe was questioned.
    More Details Hide Details
    Walsh alleged that McCabe had raped her, while Wall held her legs, on the occasion of her twelfth birthday on the 8th of January 1990.
    More Details Hide Details She also claimed that Wall had sexually abused her on numerous occasions. Wall was not questioned then or subsequently on a second allegation: that she had assisted McCabe in raping Walsh in a virtually identical way two years previously. This latter charge, on which neither she nor McCabe was questioned, was the one on which they would subsequently be found guilty. Wall maintained her innocence and was released without charge. She finished her contract with the St. Vincent de Paul, and, after some time, got work with Sir Patrick Dunn’s Hospital, which she was forced to leave after the Gardaí informed the hospital she should not be working with people.
    Wall left St. Michael's in 1990, and left the congregation of the Sisters of Mercy in 1994.
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  • THIRTIES
  • 1987
    Age 39
    Like Nora Wall, he was never questioned on the second allegation that he had also raped Regina Walsh two years previously in 1987 or 1988, again with Wall present.
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  • 1978
    Age 30
    She became the manager of this new St. Michael's in 1978.
    More Details Hide Details The children at St. Michael's came from nearby counties Waterford and Tipperary. They were from troubled families who could not cope and there were often several members of one family in the home at the same time. Pablo McCabe was also a local and almost the same age as Nora Wall. McCabe was handed over to St. Michael's industrial school in 1951 when he was a baby. In 1988, McCabe addressed a gathering of the Sisters of Mercy in Gracedieu, Waterford. He spoke of being born in Dublin in 1949 to a single mother. She struggled until McCabe was three, but "had great difficulty in working, paying for accommodation and paying someone to look after me." Thus McCabe came to live in the "old St. Michael’s", the junior industrial school run by the Sisters of Mercy in Cappoquin. His memories were "very happy ones of caring and interested women." He then went to the Industrial School at Artane, Dublin, which he found traumatic, because it had "over nine hundred boys in a very strict set-up." After leaving Artane, he began to drift and became involved with drugs, stealing to support his habit, and spent time in South America. He returned to Ireland in 1977, receiving treatment at St. Brendan's Hospital, though alcohol abuse remained a problem.
  • TWENTIES
  • 1975
    Age 27
    She joined St. Michael's residential childcare centre in Cappoquin, County Waterford in 1975.
    More Details Hide Details It had been St Michael's industrial school but this was phased out at the end on the 1970s. Two family style houses were built to house the children in the state's care there.
  • TEENAGE
  • 1967
    Age 19
    She joined the Sisters of Mercy in 1967, taking the name Sister Dominic.
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  • CHILDHOOD
  • 1948
    Age 0
    Wall was born in 1948 into a large well-to-do farming family in the Nire Valley area of county Waterford.
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