An American couple in Uganda has been convicted of cruel and inhumane treatment of a 10-year boy, who was in their care.
The couple was found guilty of six charges and ordered to pay more than $26,000 in compensation to the boy, who is now in a children’s home.
Justice Alice Komuhangi started delivering her verdict by describing the situation as a systemic problem with no mechanisms to take care of children like the 10-year-old.
“That’s why the victim found himself in the hands of the accused persons who are no citizens of Uganda and also suffering from ill health.,” Komuhangi said. “The child was in need of help and support, having lost his father and having been abandoned by his own mother.”
The American couple, Nicholas Scott Spencer and wife Mackenzie Leigh Mathias Spencer were arrested in December 2022 and charged with aggravated torture of the child, who was living in foster care at their home in Kampala.
Prosecutors said the couple withdrew the boy from school, isolated him in a room away from other children, made him sleep on a wooden slab without a cushion, and kept him naked.
The prosecution’s statement adds that the boy was made to sit in one position with his legs crossed and folded as they fed him frozen food while monitoring him on CCTV cameras installed in the room.
The Spencers were later charged with aggravated child trafficking, to which they pleaded guilty and, in March, released on bail.
Judge Komuhangi found the Spencers guilty of six charges Tuesday, including cruel and degrading treatment of a child, child neglect, unlawful stay in Uganda, and employment without a work permit.
The judge fined Mackenzie Spencer $1,000 for illegally staying in Uganda, giving her the option of paying the fine or spending two years in prison.
The judge fined Scott Spencer $400 for child neglect. He will have to serve a sentence of six months in prison if he can’t pay.
Judge Komuhangi also ordered each of them to pay the child $13,200 in compensation by the end of the day Tuesday.
“You’re also supposed to compensate and each one of you shall compensate this child to the tune of 50 million Uganda shillings, which makes it a total of 100 million Uganda shillings,” Komuhangi said.
If the Spencers cannot pay the fine, they will have to serve the jail terms.
The boy has been taken to a children’s home pending the appointment of a trustee, who will be given access to the money to take care of him.