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Inverness social worker who commented about female colleagues’ breasts is disciplined by fitness to practice panel

By Neil MacPhail

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Metropolitan House, Inverness where the Richmond Fellowship is based.
Metropolitan House, Inverness where the Richmond Fellowship is based.

An Inverness social worker made comments about female colleagues’ breasts and about them being “ugly” or “b******” a fitness to practice panel was told.

Brian Donnachie’s behaviour towards some staff members while he worked for The Richmond Fellowship Scotland in the city was revealed at a recent hearing of watchdog body the Scottish Social Services Council (SSSC).

The panel decided that some of the allegations against Mr Donnachie were proved and that his fitness to practice was therefore impaired.

It imposed the sanction of a suspension order for one year, plus placing conditions on his registration including that he undertake learning including that covering sexual harassment in the workplace. It found that his conduct was “serious”.

Mr Donnachie’s behaviour towards the women occurred while he was a support worker for The Richmond Fellowship Scotland in Inverness, with the SSSC considering his behaviour towards female colleagues over the space of almost a year.

Its findings included that in December 2021, Mr Donnachie told a 22-year-old colleague “it’s nice to have pretty girls working in the service” whilst looking her up and down. He also asked for her age, and told her he thought another female colleague was a “fat b****”.

The SSSC commented on numerous aspects of Mr Donnachie’s behaviour including that he:

• remarked on the size of a colleagues’ breasts

• told a colleague that her breasts were “perkier”

• asked a staff member for a hug and when she pulled away, told her “don’t tease me”

• said to a colleague that he had described her to another man as “the sexy one with the big breasts” or words to that effect

• said to a service user “do you think XX should be my girlfriend?”

• and when a colleague was on the phone to her mother, he said loudly “I’m sleeping with your daughter” or words to that effect.

He also described colleagues as “fat” and “ugly” and said he “wouldn’t touch them with a barge pole”, while he said others were “good-looking but b******”.

This was behaviour of a “sexually motivated manner”, said the SSSC.

Several colleagues gave evidence to the panel, as well as Mr Donnachie himself, who was employed by the organisation for 22 years before being dismissed in July 2022.

One allegation that was found not proven was that he would wait around after his shift because he wanted to see a female colleague.

In his defence, Mr Donnachie said he “would never behave in the extreme way referred to in the allegations”.

He also said he was “neither rude nor nasty” and that during his 24 years working in care across eight different services he had worked with “hundreds of women”.

Mr Donnachie also told the panel that if he had been guilty of the allegations, he “would have left care”.

The panel considered the conduct that was proved was inappropriate as it involved speaking about colleagues in a derogatory manner and communicating with colleagues in a manner which was sexually motivated.

It said: “Your language about colleagues was abusive and discriminatory, being directed only to women you worked with. Such behaviour calls into question your suitability to work in social services. You failed to treat your colleagues with respect. In the view of the panel the conduct amounted to misconduct.”

The Richmond Fellowship provides services and support for mental health, learning disabilities, dementia and alcohol issues.

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