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Pretoria - Cezanne Visser, known as Advocate Barbie, was given a lifeline yesterday when the Pretoria High court ordered the parole board to again consider her suitability to have the remainder of her seven-year jail sentence converted to correctional supervision.
Although freedom may seem a step closer, Visser will certainly be spending her third Christmas in prison.
Judge Tati Makgoka yesterday ordered the case management committee of the female correctional centre to immediately prepare all the relevant documentation, including Visser’s social work and psychologist reports in light of her pending parole hearing. This must be done within 21 days.
The parole board was also ordered to convene and consider by January 31 next year, Visser’s suitability, and make its recommendation in this regard to the sentencing court for the possible conversion of the remainder of her sentence into correctional supervision.
Visser had served about two years and seven months of her original seven-year sentence on an array of sex-related charges which, among others, involved explicit deeds with minors.
She was sentenced in February 2010, but only went to jail in May that year, after her appeal failed.
Meanwhile, she received a six-month presidential general amnesty announced on April 27 this year. Her effective sentence thus is six and a half years.
Visser turned to court to overturn the decision by the parole board not to consider her early release.
She said since her incarceration she had taken various steps towards rehabilitation. She completed an HIV/Aids adherence and prevention programme and obtained a certificate in skills development hosted by Tuks. Visser further participated in a restorative justice programme.
She was appointed as a tutor in adult basic education and English, and she is helping offenders to complete Grades 10 to 12.
Visser also has letters of recommendation from a priest at the Ned Geref Kerk, a spiritual co-ordinator and her mother, Susan Lemmer.
In terms of one of the provisions of the Correctional Services Act, an inmate must have served at least a quarter of his or her sentence before he or she can be considered for conversion of sentence. The judge said it was common cause that Visser qualified in this regard.
The next step is a finding by the parole board that an inmate is a fit and suitable person to be referred to the sentencing court for reconsideration of their sentence.
The parole board, however, on August 7 decided that Visser was not yet ready for an early release.
Judge Makgoka said it was common cause that the parole board came to its decision without the social worker and psychologist’s updated reports. These reports were crucial for the case management committee’s recommendation to the parole board for it to make an informed decision, the judge said.
According to him, the views of the victims and their families also need to be considered, as they have a right to attend the parole board meeting to make representations.
He referred to the fact that Visser’s advocate, Johann Engelbrecht sc, had asked the court not to refer the matter back to the parole board.
But the judge said this was something the parole board had to decide on and not the court.
Pretoria News Weekend