Twenty years on

A former Vancouver police Officer, Clyde Ray Spencer, has spent nearly 20 years in prison after being convicted of molesting his, then, young children.

Now adults, the children have now testified that they do not believe that the abuse ever happened. The son, now 33 years old, recalled how, at the age of 9 years, he was repeatedly questioned, alone, by now-retired Detective Sharon Krause of the Clark County Sheriff’s Office. He also recalled that after months of questioning, he finally said that he had been abused just to get Krause to leave him alone.

A 30-year-old daughter testified that she doesn’t remember what she told Krause at the time, when she was just 5 years old, but recalled that Krause bought her ice cream.

The situation does not appear to have been helped by their mother. The brother and sister, who live in California, added that while growing up in California they were told by their mother, who divorced Spencer before he was charged, that they were blocking out the memory of the abuse, but as adults, they realised that the abuse never actually happened.

Spencer made several appeals against his sentence, two life terms plus 14 years, but they all failed. He was also denied parole on five occasions because he refused to admit guilt and enter a sex-offender treatment program.

During the 1990’s, Spencer hired an attorney who uncovered some disturbing facts, including that prosecutors withheld medical exams that showed no evidence of abuse, despite Krause’s claims that the children had been violently, repeatedly raped. Those discoveries led Governor Gary Locke to commute Spencer’s sentence in 2004.

However, Spencer is still currently a convicted sex offender, something which prevents him from practising his new-found profession, clinical psychology.

The daughter testified that when she finally read the police reports, she was ‘absolutely sure’ the abuse never happened. There is still possibly a long way to go before Spencer’s name is cleared, if it ever is, with more hearings and appeals likely, but things now seem to be on the right track.

One positive thing to come out of it so far, at least, is that Spencer is now once again on speaking terms with his children after 20 years of silence.

If this turns out to be a miscarriage of justice then it has deprived a man of 20 years of his life and, for those 20 years, the company of his children. And at least one official must have known that the evidence was, at the very least, on the dodgy side.

Not so long ago, it was a recognised practice in the USA to promote the idea that the reason many young children initially testified that they weren’t abused was because they were suppressing a bad memory or bad experience. Many of those children came to believe that such unproven, speculative or downright false experiences were actually real.

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