Details of ‘Brandon’ report make for devastating reading

Summary confirms extent of abuse but full report paints a far more comprehensive picture

The 11-page executive summary of the "Brandon" report into sustained sexual abuse of intellectually disabled residents at a HSE-run disability centre in Co Donegal omits many details contained in the full report.

The summary, compiled by the National Independent Review Panel, makes for devastating reading nonetheless. It notes 108 incidents of sexual abuse perpetrated against at least 18 intellectually disabled residents, many of them non-verbal, by another resident given the pseudonym Brandon. The abuse continued for at least 13 years and probably for far longer, with "the full knowledge" of staff and management at the time.

None of the victims’ families were told until December 2018, more than a decade after the abuse, in some cases.

Though Anne Rabbitte, Minister of State with responsibility for disability, is seeking the advice of the Attorney General as to whether she can publish the full 67-page report, the HSE is adamant it will not do so. It says to publish it in full could identify individuals and compromise the integrity of the panel's process.


Rabbitte believes publication of a redacted version of the report should be possible.

The full report paints a far more comprehensive picture of the devastation perpetrated on vulnerable adults in the care of the HSE, and the tireless, albeit fruitless, efforts of staff and external experts to protect them.

Among the details are quotes from care plans for Brandon, demonstrating that his abusive behaviour began before the dates covered by the panel’s terms of reference, which were 2003-2018.

A care plan dated November 2003 states: “All staff need to be aware that Brandon has a history of inappropriate sexualised behaviour, ie fondling female clients and inappropriate behaviour towards male clients.”

Moving wards

There is also the letter from six nursing staff to management in February 2008, addressed to a multidisciplinary meeting that took place in March that year. The National Independent Review Panel’s report describes this letter as a “significant milestone in the overall account of Brandon’s assaults and demonstrates the deep level of concern that these six staff members had about vulnerable service users in their care”.

The letter refers to Brandon being moved to one of the wards from another and warns: “The more staff intervened to prevent [sexualised] behaviour, the more violent, argumentative and aggressive towards staff he became” and, despite their efforts to supervise him, “Brandon’s assaultative nature has increased,” says the letter.

It demonstrates staff’s “despair”, says the report. “There is no evidence to suggest that as a result of the staff letter … any significant changes occurred for staff on the ground”.

From the summary is omitted the recommendations from a psychiatrist in 2011 that “it is totally inappropriate to allow this man to continue live with and sexually exploit vulnerable learning-disabled men” and “the fact that the relatives of his known victims have not been informed of the episodes of abuse could be interpreted as collusion or complicity if the situation were ever the subject of an investigation”.

In its statement accompanying publication of the summary on Thursday morning, the HSE said it “would like to apologise to residents and their families for the failings in care”, and said “residents of the service and their families remain our priority”.

The trust of several of those families in the HSE’s management of the situation remains low. It is inevitable their calls for publication of the full report will grow louder in the new year.