Dr Sergio Sentenced


23 months prison sentence suspended for one year

£2,000 compensation to each of 5 of his patients where he was found guilty of causing criminal negligence

£5,000 court costs

Banned for life from being a doctor in St. Helena

Guatemala medical authorities to be informed of Dr Sergio's criminal conviction and recommended to apply the same ban Sergio Villatoro Bran appeared at the St Helena Supreme Court on Friday 22nd September to the sentenced.  This follows his conviction in July when he was found guilty on 5 counts of criminal negligence. He arrived in St Helena on Saturday 16th August and has kept a very low profile while awaiting the court hearing. He will not be allowed to leave St Helena until the £15,000 for compensation and costs have been paid.  He said he would pay within 7 days.

In a separate action under civil law, there are more than 50 of Bran’s patients have asked Hugh James Solicitors to assess their claims for compensation because lost the lasting adverse effects of his surgery

Also on Friday, the St Helena government announced that “an independently operated compensation scheme will be established to process and manage claims associated with previous treatment delivered by Dr Bran. SHG have therefore engaged an external law firm with significant experience in these matters to develop and manage the scheme, which will be operated entirely independent of SHG.”

Full details in Friday’s Independent.


  1. Funny how we Saints are not saying much about this sentence. I can’t help wondering if a local had similar charges against them would the sentencing be different. I bet if this was a local the Social Media keyboard warriors would be hammering them. I urge my fellow Saints who was a victim to ensure you get the compensation you deserve. So many are allegedly accountable for these crimes and all can’t be allowed to get off lightly. It is time for the Saints to stand up and fight for your basic human rights. We should all be free from harm. It baffles me that we are in the year 2023 and we still got the colonial weight dragging us down.

  2. Is it institutionalised apathy or a sense of hopelessness in the face of repeated failures that allows these things to happen on St Helena? Perhaps the constant pinballing from one disaster or scandal to the next wears people down to the point that fighting it feels too energy-sapping and ultimately fruitless? There are a few that raise their heads (and voices) to counter them, but the majority don’t seem motivated to action. It’s not hard to see why Saints feel unable or unwilling to stand against the harm that occurs given the long history of disappointments and the feeling of a lack of control of their own destiny.

    But specifically, it would be useful to know who was in charge of Health (from clinical, administrative and political perspectives) when these offences were being committed; when did they become aware of them and what was done? Why did the review launched in 2021 falter? How did the processes and people in the system fail and what are the lessons for the organisation that have since been learned to stop this happening again? It’s easy to blame an individual, but more difficult to apportion organisational responsibility and accountability on the Island. Is there to be a public enquiry and report into this? If not, why not?

    As for the colonial weight, well perhaps the only solution is to vote for independence? Or find a strong bargaining chip to force the hand of FCDO and the UK. However, I fear neither are within reach or are desired.

  3. James Kellett says things that should be said loudly with the call that someone should be held to account for what in essence is yet again poor recruitment and selection of “experts” – and expensive ones at that – to St Helena. As a human resources professional, who by the way was not allowed to practice my profession on the island, over many years I keep seeing some of the most basic errors in not following standard good practice. Indeed as we have seen stated “he or she was the only one of a very few who applied for the job on this remote island…. etc”. Far from taking extra care to get appointments right, this is an excuse for shortcuts and leaving things to chance. Sasha Vass QC’s enquiry in to St Helena’s social care sector pointed out precisely such failings in expatriate recruitment. So all of this doctor’s victims might not have suffered their fate had more rigorous selection taken place – indeed even if there was proper probationary supervision.

    1. Agreed. HR and recruitment is a huge problem which has remained unresolved for years.
      Professionals advised that the vet now in prison should not be recruited due to obvious lack of skills, but HR appointed anyway. Good candidates have been lost because HR have responded to them far too late after interview. Other good, diligent officers such as teachers have left in despair when long promised renewal contracts haven’t been sorted out until the very last moment, so they have accepted another position. Dr Soto recruited his friends from Guatemala – that should never have been allowed to happen. A long term HR professional would be a great idea for the island.
      It’s nothing to do with colonialism and wonder how fellow Saints can criticise when their living has been funded by U.K. government money for very many years and they have the right to live anywhere in the U.K. with all the benefits that brings.

  4. James Kellett’s insights, as always, are valuable, and I hope he has contributed to either or both of the House of Commons Committee inquiries into the Overseas Territories, as they are wasted on social media.

    However, what is needed is a Royal Commission into St Helena, and only St Helena (oh alright, then, St Helena and Ascension, like it says on the coins!) because a) it’s the only way things can be covered at enough length, in enough detail and in enough depth, and b) in a parliamentary inquiry into all the Overseas Territories, St Helena will struggle to make its voice heard, assuming, of course, it uses its voice at all.

    PS. It’s Sasha Wass, with a ‘w’.

  5. Excellent suggestions and advice from Basil which I hope James and others will instantaneously take to heart. The idea of focusing an inquiry of some sort, (Royal Commission or any other administrative device is welcome) on St Helena specifically is an ideal topic for the House of Commons Select Committee on Procedure. This committee’s inquiry is “The procedure of the House of Commons and the territorial constitution”. Sounds very dry and boring but all human life lies behind those words.
    You can link to it with
    to see how your opinion can be included as part of the inquiry. You will need to be quick – the deadline for written submissions is 30th September (this year – this month)

  6. Thanks Vince.

    There is also the Public Administration and Constitutional Affairs Committee (PACAC) inquiry – https://committees.parliament.uk/call-for-evidence/3109/

    It says ‘The Committee welcomes submissions by 5pm on Monday 4 September however submissions may be accepted after this date.’

    One question it asks is:
    Are the UK’s current constitutional arrangements as regards the Overseas Territories satisfactory and appropriate in the 21st Century?

    I’ll leave the rest of you to answer that question for yourselves, but my answer is ‘no’,

    As it’s the party conference season, neither Committee will meet until 16 October.

    The UK held a Commission of Inquiry into the British Virgin Islands, and you can read the report here – https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/british-virgin-islands-commission-of-inquiry-report

    The Inquiry website is here – https://bvi.public-inquiry.uk/ One bundle of supporting documents runs to over 2000 pages.

    1. Ruth Powell and the Hugh James Clinical negligence team have gathered details of possible clinical negligence by other surgeons in St Helena. They will be following up these claims together with the Sergio claims.
      If you have not given your own details yet, email ruth.powell@hughjames.com

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