The pre-trial hearing of an American couple charged with aggravated child trafficking is scheduled to start on Tuesday, September 19, at the International Crimes Division of the High Court in Kampala. Judge Alice Komuhangi will preside over the court proceedings.
During a pre-trial hearing, a prosecutor presents enough evidence to determine if there is probable cause that the accused individuals committed the alleged crimes.
The couple, Nicholas Spencer (32) and Mackenzie Leigh, also faces charges related to unlawful residence in Uganda and aggravated torture for allegedly mistreating their foster child in Uganda.
According to court documents, the victim (whose name is not disclosed), was a 10-year-old pupil at Dawn Children’s Center – Special Children’s Trust at the time of the incident. The child was living with the accused as their foster child at their residence in Naguru, a suburb of Kampala.
On November 17, 2013, an unnamed probation and social welfare officer from Jinja district placed the victim under the care of Welcome Home Ministry Africa, a non-governmental organization in Jinja that cares for abandoned children awaiting adoption or foster care.
Court records show that the child was abandoned by their mother after their father’s passing.
In September 2019, the couple applied to the Jinja welfare offices to become foster parents to the victim and two other children placed at Welcome Home Ministries. Their application was approved, and the accused individuals resided in Jinja district with the children, including the victim, until February 2020 when they relocated to Kampala and lived in Naguru until their arrest.
A report of torture was made on December 7, 2022, by Pamela Arinaitwe, who had been caring for the victim and other children under the couple’s care for two years and six months. She reported the case of torture at Kira Road Police Station after witnessing repeated inhumane treatment of the victim by the accused.
In her statement to the police, Arinaitwe detailed instances of cruel treatment, such as isolating the victim in a separate room, making them sleep on a wooden surface without a mattress, keeping them unclothed daily, feeding them frozen food, and not allowing them to leave the house, among other allegations.
On December 8, 2022, a team of police officers visited the accused couple’s residence, where they rescued the victim and the other two children. Subsequently, the American couple was arrested.
Preliminary police investigations revealed that the accused continued to engage in employment in Uganda without valid work permits or special passes.