An assistant professor of criminal justice at the University of Winnipeg convicted of a child pornography offence more than a decade ago was a registered sex offender when the school hired him.
Derek Spencer, who has used a variety of different names during the past decade, was charged with possession and distribution of child pornography in September 2007, the Free Press has learned.
Spencer is on a leave of absence from the university. He did not return requests for comment.
Spencer was convicted of the possession charge in June 2010 and sentenced to nine months in jail and three years of probation. At the time, he was 19 and living with family in Saskatoon. He was also ordered to spend 10 years on the sex offender registry and provide a sample of his DNA.
Spencer was acquitted on the second charge of distributing child pornography. The case hinged on whether Spencer was aware the program LimeWire, which he used to obtain the child pornography, was a file-sharing service, court documents state.
After he was found not guilty, the Crown appealed the verdict, eventually arguing the case all the way to the Supreme Court of Canada.
A second trial was ordered by the Supreme Court, and Spencer was convicted of distributing child pornography in February 2015. However, the Saskatchewan Court of Appeal set aside that conviction in 2017 and ordered a stay of proceedings, ruling a third trial on the matter would constitute an abuse of process.
The appeal court found the sentencing judge at Spencer’s second trial provided "insufficient" reasons to conclude he was "willfully blind" of Limewire’s file-sharing function.
Between 2007 and 2015, Spencer pursued a post-secondary education. He received two degrees from the University of Saskatchewan, before getting a master of laws degree from the University of Victoria.
During his initial interrogation by the Saskatoon Police Service in September 2007, Spencer told investigators he had downloaded “a hundred images.”
At the second trial, the judge noted Spencer had always conceded to possessing child porn, saying he’d been ashamed of his predilection for it but had been unaware that by using LimeWire, he would effectively help distribute the same materials he had downloaded to others.
During his initial interrogation by the Saskatoon Police Service in September 2007, Spencer told investigators he had downloaded "a hundred images."
"The other side of all this is, obviously, that you’re sharing it all, which is (what) makes it a hundred times worse, right?" said the police officer who was conducting the interrogation, as outlined in court documents.
"Not only are you someone who is getting sexual joy and pleasure out of some child being raped, you were sharing that with everyone else."
It remains unclear how Spencer passed the U of W’s vetting process before being hired.
Court documents indicate his legal name as Matthew David Spencer. His subsequent academic research appears to have been predominantly published under the name Matthew Derek Spencer. On his U of W biographical page, he is referred to only as Derek Spencer.
On a website where post-secondary students can upload reviews of their professors, one student indicated Spencer had been hired by U of W roughly two years ago.
"New prof to (the university) but he seems to be doing OK. Haven’t written the final yet, but I’m feeling confident," the student wrote, in a post dated Dec. 18, 2017.
During his time at the university, Spencer has taught a number of classes, served as supervisor of students and has held a variety of academic posts on university committees.
When reached for comment, Kevin Rosen, executive director of marketing and communications for U of W, confirmed Spencer was employed by the school, but declined to comment further citing "privacy legislation."
Rosen also provided a link to the U of W policy on criminal record and child abuse registry checks.
All U of W employees are required to undergo background checks if they will work with youth or students under the age of 18, or vulnerable people, the policy states.
Some students at the U of W are 17 when they begin post-secondary education. A private university-preparatory high school, called University of Winnipeg Collegiate, is also located on campus. There is at least one daycare on the campus.
This isn’t the first time the university has been connected to a scandal in 2019. In July, it was revealed at least four women had accused former University of Winnipeg Collegiate teacher Ishmael Mustapha of sexual misconduct. He’s been charged with sexually assaulting two of them.
Ryan Thorpe likes the pace of daily news, the feeling of a broadsheet in his hands and the stress of never-ending deadlines hanging over his head.
Updated on Friday, December 13, 2019 at 7:52 PM CST: Adds minor clarification
9:35 PM: Updates story.
December 19, 2019 at 1:22 PM: Updated.
1:26 PM: corrects some dates, adds info