The former Mercy nun, Nora Wall, has been jailed for life by the Central Criminal Court for raping a young child in her care. Her co-accused, homeless man Pablo McCabe was sentenced to 12 years. Mr. Justice Paul Carney described Nora Wall as the leader and said that she was the only person in the world charged with the protection of her victim, Regina Walsh, who was aged ten at the time.
Nora Wall was the sister in charge of the St. Michael's Childcare centre in Cappoquin, Co. Waterford from 1978 to 1990. Today, her counsel sought an adjournment on sentencing because of what he called a potential miscarriage of justice in her case.
Last month, 51-year-old Nora Wall and her 50-year-old co-accused Pablo McCabe were convicted by a jury of raping Regina Walsh. The evidence was that Ms. Wall, then Sr. Dominic, held the child's legs while McCabe raped her. Today Mr. Justice Carney imposed a life sentence on Nora Wall. He said that there are some rape cases so gross and so appalling that the courts must not resile from the principle of imposing the maximum sentence.
Earlier, her counsel Hugh Harnett had sought an adjournment or a stay on any sentence. He told the court that there appeared to be a grave breach of non-disclosure of evidence by the State with regard to the victim and her corroborating witness. He also said that there might have been a miscarriage of justice. He said that the State had not disclosed that Ms. Walsh alleged that she was raped by a man in London. Neither had they disclosed that allegations of sexual abuse against an unnamed man made by the corroborating witness, Patricia Phelan, had been dismissed in judicial review proceedings.
Mr. Denis Vaughan Buckley for the State said that the Gardaí were not aware of these matters during their investigations of this case and rejected claims that there had not been full disclosure. He also said that these issues were not relevant to this case. Mr. Justice Carney said that he had no jurisdiction but to give effect to the verdict of the jury. Leave to appeal was refused but it is now anticipated that this case will come before the Court of Criminal Appeal next week, when it is possible that bail will be sought for Ms. Wall and Mr. McCabe pending a full hearing.
The victim was placed in care in Saint 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 Saint 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.
Nora Wall’s expertise was in childcare, she became the manager of Saint Michael's Centre in Cappoquin shortly after it was built in the 1970s. This centre heralded a new approach to childcare, moving away from the dark days of the industrial school era. Known as Sister Dominic, Nora Wall ran the group homes from 1978 until 1990. She left the Mercy Order in 1994 and there was no member of the Order in court to give evidence on her behalf. She has since worked in hostels in Dublin and in a Romanian orphanage.
Fifty-year-old Paul McCabe, also known as Pablo, is a diagnosed schizophrenic. In court he was described by his own legal team as “a vagabond and hobo”. He spent his early years in the care of the Sisters of Mercy at the now closed industrial school in Cappoquin. It seems he originally met Nora Wall when he was trying to trace his mother. He said in evidence that he was a regular visitor to Saint Michael's during the 1980s.