Wednesday 14 November 2018

Nora Wall case witness known to Chief State Solicitor's Office

LIZ ALLEN, Crime Correspondent 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, the Sunday Independent has learned.

It was the calling of Ms Phelan as a witness that led to last week's decision by the DPP not to proceed further in court against Ms Wall or her co-accused, Paul McCabe.

Last night, Fine Gael's Justice spokesman, Jim Higgins, said 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 Gardai and the Chief State Solicitor's Office''.

``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 Gardai 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,'' Mr Higgins said.

In the Patricia Phelan case in 1997, 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 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.

In the case of Nora Wall and Paul McCabe, the Chief State Solicitor's Office returned to court just three days after the pair were sentenced and asked the court to set aside their convictions.

This newspaper has obtained documentation dated May 1997, which shows that the Chief State Solicitor's Office wrote to the solicitor for the defendant 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. This list included the name of Nora Wall.

When details of the DPP's report on the blunders in the Nora Wall case were released by the Attorney General's office last Wednesday, there were no references to the documentation linking the Chief State Solicitor's Office to both cases.

The report failed to explain why the DPP did not want her 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.

And the Minister for Justice supported the decision of the DPP, James Hamilton, not to give any further explanations in the case, saying on Thursday that he could not interfere in the functions of the DPP because of the independence of that office.

In his decision in the judicial review of the original Phelan case on January 5, 1997, Mr Justice McCracken said: ``While I have great sympathy for [the two defendants], 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.

The Kilkenny businessman against whom Ms Phelan and another woman made the allegations told the Sunday Independent yesterday that he came close to committing suicide over the ase.

``I can't begin to express what this has done to my family.''

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