Two prior complaints made to Order of Malta about volunteer who abused youths

Volunteer allegedly drugged and sexually assaulted teen months before abusing 15-year-olds

Two separate complaints were made to the Order of Malta about a volunteer allegedly sexually assaulting young men in the ambulance corps, prior to the man using his position in the first-aid organisation to abuse two youths.

Scott Browne, from Co Kildare, was jailed for 9½ years in 2020 for sexually abusing two 15-year-olds in separate incidents in May 2018. The teenagers were knocked unconscious using a strong pain-relief drug stolen from the order.

The court heard how Browne, who was aged 27 at the time, used his position of trust in the first-aid organisation to target and abuse the two boys.

Internal correspondence, seen by The Irish Times, reveals a complaint was made to the Order of Malta about Browne allegedly using first-aid medication to drug and then sexually assault an unconscious 18-year-old volunteer, six months prior to him molesting the two 15-year-old boys.

In late 2017 a volunteer reported they had been approached by a group of teenage members from Browne’s unit raising serious concerns. One of the juvenile “cadets” disclosed witnessing Browne allegedly drug and then sexually assault an 18-year-old male volunteer.

The alleged assault took place after Browne had administered propofol, an anaesthetic, to the volunteer while socialising in a house with the alleged victim and two 16-year-old cadets. The alleged victim was aware the drug might “knock him out” and made it clear to the group no one was to “touch” him while he was unconscious. The complaint alleged that after the teenager lost consciousness Browne began to sexually assault him.

Advanced stage

It is understood a Garda investigation into the alleged assault is one of several further cases against Browne that is at an advanced stage. The group also disclosed a previous alleged incident where Browne had administered propofol to a friend, who was a minor, and separately it was alleged that a female adult volunteer had been pursuing a sexual relationship with a 17-year-old cadet.

The Irish Times previously reported that another 18-year-old volunteer had made a complaint to the order in 2015, alleging he had been orally raped by Browne during a trip to Lourdes. In that case the alleged victim said he was told his allegation had been investigated internally but no action could be taken.

Internal emails show John Wright, current national director of the Order of Malta Ambulance Corps (OMAC), was aware of the 2017 complaint, as were a number of other senior volunteers.

Discussing how to respond in a December 11th, 2017 email, Mr Wright said “as the sexual abuse allegations are serious and happened outside OMAC this should be reported to the Garda in the first instance”.

The organisation’s then child protection officer Mary McGinty said the allegation was a “very serious matter” and needed to be reported to authorities under child protection laws.

Progress

Mark Glennon, an assistant regional director, wrote in a subsequent email that he had contacted the members but they did not want to progress the complaints.

The volunteer who reported the disclosures similarly informed senior officers that some of the teenagers were “terrified” of the consequences of lodging formal complaints.

Around six months later Browne sexually abused two 15-year-olds in incidents two weeks apart, with a Garda investigation opened shortly afterwards when one of the boys reported the abuse. Despite the complaints about Browne in 2015 and 2017, he was only removed from the Order of Malta after the Garda investigation was opened into the 2018 abuse, sources said.

Another former Co Kildare volunteer, Jordan Murphy, a this month pleaded guilty to aiding and abetting Browne to abuse the two 15-year-olds. He was jailed for 5½ years. The Order of Malta has commenced an internal investigation, which is expected to examine how the previous complaints were handled.