Friday 9 December 2016

Pistorius freed from jail 10 months into sentence, and put under house arrest at uncle's mansion

TJ Strydom in Johannesburg

Published 20/10/2015 | 02:30

Oscar Pistorius and Reeva Steenkamp at an event two weeks before he shot and killed her
Oscar Pistorius and Reeva Steenkamp at an event two weeks before he shot and killed her

Paralympian Oscar Pistorius, jailed for shooting dead his girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp, was released from prison last night and put under house arrest, a South African official said.

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Manelisi Wolela, a spokesman for South Africa's correctional services department, said the double-amputee runner, who killed Ms Steenkamp on Valentine's Day 2013, was put under "correctional supervision".

Pistorius (28) was taken to the house of his uncle, Arnold Pistorius, in Waterkloof, an upmarket Pretoria suburb.

The house is a three-storey converted church on a luxury estate, and has a swimming pool.

A parole board at the prison where Pistorius served nearly a year of his five-year sentence for manslaughter made the decision for the runner to be put under house arrest. It came after an initial ruling to release the athlete from prison in August was cancelled at the last minute after intervention by the justice minister.

"Oscar Pistorius was placed under correctional supervision tonight," Mr Wolela said late yesterday.

The correctional services department had originally said Pistorius would be released from the Pretoria jail today in line with a decision by a parole board at the prison. "The handling of the actual placement is an operational matter of the local management, and how they handle it is their prerogative that is carried out in the best interest of all parties concerned, the victims, the offender and the Department of Correction Services," Mr Wolela said.

Under South African law, an offender sentenced to five years or less in jail can be released after serving one-sixth of the term - in Pistorius's case 10 months.

Pistorius was acquitted of murder last year but prosecutors have appealed against the trial verdict of culpable homicide, or manslaughter, and will seek a murder conviction again at South Africa's Supreme Court on November 3.

If Pistorius is convicted of murder by a panel of five judges at the appeal, he faces going back to prison for 15 years, the minimum sentence for murder in South Africa, which no longer has the death penalty.

The department of correctional services said Pistorius's parole conditions include that the gun enthusiast must undergo psychotherapy and is not allowed to possess a gun.

Ms Steenkamp's family have said they are unhappy with Pistorius's sentence and questioned the verdict in public in August. Tania Koen, a lawyer for the Steenkamp family which has opposed early parole, told state broadcaster SABC last week: "Nothing is changed in their lives. Reeva is not coming back."

Prosecutors argue the verdict should be one of murder because Pistorius must have known that the person behind the door could be killed.

The state will argue that the trial judge misinterpreted parts of the law and ignored vital evidence. A murder conviction would result in a minimum sentence of 15 years in prison. A panel of five judges will hear the appeal.

They could either reject the prosecution's appeal, order a retrial or convict Pistorius of murder themselves.

Irish Independent

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