Sunday 18 November 2018

Nun who led gang rape finds little mercy in court

STEPHEN DODD

NO mitigation was possible. Such was the scale of the crime that nothing said in favour of Nora Wall's character could count against the enormity of what she did.

NO mitigation was possible. Such was the scale of the crime that nothing said in favour of Nora Wall's character could count against the enormity of what she did.

As the former Sister Dominic awaited sentence, her defence lawyers had spoken of her religious career, recounting a ``lifetime of service,'' of charity rendered to the young and elderly alike. Mr Justice Paul Carney, passing judgement on the characters of both Wall and her co-accused Paul McCabe, seemed unimpressed by the pleas.

``In the facts of this case,'' he said, ``I find nothing in favour of either of them.''

In its closing drama, the rape trial of the 51-year-old former Sister of Mercy and 50-year-old schizophrenic drug user McCabe provided dark commentary on Ireland's continuing purge of an abusive past. Just months after television documentaries revealed widespread rape and cruelty in children's homes run by the religious orders, the trial added brutal detail to a vile slice of modern history. The case is the first time in Ireland that a woman has been convicted of rape.

The nun and her co-accused subjected a 10-year-old girl to savage degradation at St Michael's Child Care centre in Cappoquin, Co Waterford. Wall held down the girl's legs while McCabe raped her. The girl was also abused on another occasion, for which Wall was given a five-year concurrent sentence. The convictions came at the close of their trial in June, when the two defendants were acquitted of a second charge of rape.

Wall, who maintains the accusations against her are fabricated, was sentenced to 20 years imprisonment, with McCabe receiving a 12-year sentence. The difference reflected the greater betrayal by the woman who was responsible for the victim's care. Both defendants denied the charges.

As the case moved towards its final moments, a garda read out a poem written by Wall and McCabe's victim Regina Walsh, now aged 21. In the verse, Regina writes of the lingering trauma of her ordeal, and how it continues to poison her life.

She lives, she says, ``not trusting anyone, as trust has been stolen from my heart and soul''.

Passing sentence, Mr Justice Carney spoke of Wall's terrible 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.''

The Sisters of Mercy order has announced it wants an independent inquiry into the case, and says Nora Wall was removed from an administrator's post nine years ago because of worries about her fitness for the job. She remained a nun until she opted for lay life in 1994.

Defence lawyers plan to appeal the convictions this week, claiming a possible miscarriage of justice and saying the prosecution failed to release important evidence. The alleged undisclosed evidence concerns previous abuse allegations said to have been made by Ms Walsh and a key corroborative witness.

Regina Walsh now says she intends to sue the Sisters of Mercy order over the abuse.

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