South Carolina Couple Pleads Guilty to Lesser Charges in Ugandan Foster Child Torture Case, Faces Compensation Order

Mackenzie and Nicholas Spencer.
Mackenzie and Nicholas Spencer. Photo: Badru Katumba/AFP VIA Getty Images

Kampala, Uganda – November 2, 2023: Nicholas and Mackenzie Spencer, a couple originally from South Carolina who had been residing in Uganda, recently entered a guilty plea to lesser charges in a disturbing child abuse case. This case had shaken the local community and captured global attention. The Spencers were accused of subjecting their 10-year-old foster son to severe mistreatment over the course of two harrowing years.

The charges against the couple were nothing short of horrifying, alleging that they kept their young foster child “barefoot and naked throughout the day” and, in some instances, forced him into physically awkward and painful positions. Additionally, the child was said to have been forced to sleep on a bare wooden platform with no mattress or bedding. The reported acts of torture occurred between the years 2020 and 2022, as detailed in the police statement.

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It was a concerned caretaker for the child who finally brought these allegations of torture to the attention of the authorities in December of the preceding year. The individual stated that the Spencers had confined the child to a small, tiled room. Furthermore, it was alleged that the couple kept the boy from attending school and had a monitoring camera keeping a constant watch on him.

The legal saga of the Spencers began in December 2022 when they were arrested and charged with aggravated torture, as reported by People at the time. It was a case that sent shockwaves through the region and drew the attention of international media.

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Remarkably, the Spencers have lived and worked in the Ugandan capital since 2017, initially moving there to undertake humanitarian work. Their intentions were seemingly noble, yet the accusations painted a disturbingly different picture.

In 2018, the couple welcomed three foster children into their home located in the Naguru area, a Kampala suburb. It was here that the allegations of child abuse unfolded. The child was subjected to a harrowing environment, one that no child should ever experience.

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After pleading guilty to the offenses, the Spencers had been out on bail since March. The couple had already served a two-month prison sentence following their initial arrest, as detailed in a report by BBC News.

On Tuesday, a significant legal development unfolded as a judge found the couple guilty of six lesser charges. These included charges of inflicting cruel, inhuman, and degrading treatment, child neglect, unlawful stay in Uganda, and employment without a work permit. In a decision that sent shockwaves through the courtroom, the couple was ordered to pay 100 million Ugandan shillings, which translates to up to $28,000, as compensation to the young abuse victim.

However, the Spencers now face a critical juncture in their legal journey. The Voice of America (VOA) reports that they will indeed serve jail time if they cannot meet the financial obligations set forth by the court. This decision puts their future freedom and circumstances in doubt.

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In the wake of these legal proceedings, the young boy, who was subjected to such horrific conditions, has been relocated to a children’s home. The psychological and emotional scars left by this traumatic experience will undoubtedly require time and expert care to heal.

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David Mpanga, the couple’s lawyer, asserted that the child had underlying psychiatric problems and argued that the Spencers, lacking prior parenting experience, were ill-equipped to provide the necessary care for the boy. This raises complex ethical and legal questions surrounding their actions, though the court has now made a judgment that will significantly impact their future.

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