Friday 22 November 2019

Pistorius to be paroled next week - a year into his sentence

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

Aislinn Laing

Oscar Pistorius will be released on parole next Tuesday, a year after he was jailed for killing his model girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp after apparently mistaking her for a burglar.

A parole board sitting at the Pretoria prison where the former Paralympian is incarcerated ruled that he be released into correctional supervision, involving strict bail conditions and community service.

Steenkamp's parents, who initially opposed the athlete's release, said it made no difference to them, adding "Reeva is still not coming back".

Pistorius was convicted of manslaughter in September last year after he fired four shots through a locked toilet door on February 14, 2013, killing model and law graduate Steenkamp.

He will spent the next four years of his five-year sentence being closely monitored by a parole officer.

But his liberty could be short-lived if South Africa's Court of Appeal sitting on November 3 agrees with the prosecution that the 28-year-old athlete should have been convicted of murdering Steenkamp. A murder conviction would result in a minimum sentence of 15 years in prison.

Correctional supervision is usually given to offenders who commit serious crimes but are not deemed to be a danger to the community and are not best-served by a long stretch in South Africa's notoriously dangerous and overcrowded prisons.

Pistorius's good behaviour in prison was taken into account, and his family will have been checked to ensure they will hold him to his release conditions.

The athlete was originally due to be released from Kgosi Mampuru III prison in Pretoria in September but just 24 hours before his return home, South Africa's justice minister said the parole board made its decision prematurely.

Last week, after it was suggested his release would be delayed even further, his family issued a furious statement threatening legal action and alleging his celebrity meant he was being treated unfairly.

Reeva Steenkamp's parents June and Barry appealed against his release when it was originally considered nine months into his sentence, saying it was "too soon" and sent the "wrong message" about the value of life.

Tania Koen, the Steenkamp's family attorney, said they would say no more about the decision to release him. "They say nothing has changed in their lives, Reeva is still not coming back," she said. "Whether Mr Pistorius remains incarcerated or whether he is released, Reeva isn't coming back so it doesn't make a difference to them."

Pistorius is expected to be released to live at his uncle's home in Pretoria's upmarket Waterkloof suburb.

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