'Hurtful' that judgement error comes out before anniversary of Reeva Steenkamp’s death
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Cape Town - As the anniversary of Reeva Steenkamp's death looms, her family were shocked to discover that her convicted murderer, Oscar Pistorius, may be out on parole sooner than expected.
A recent decision by the Supreme Court of Appeal to amend its ruling and allow for Pistorius to be eligible for parole in March 2023 has apparently left the Steenkamp family in disbelief.
It has emerged that the judgment, which saw his culpable homicide conviction turned to one of murder, and the subsequent sentencing, failed to take into account the more than 500 days he had already served in prison.
Pistorius killed his girlfriend, Reeva, on Valentines day in 2013. He was initially found guilty of culpable homicide in 2016, but when the State appealed to the Supreme Court of Appeal it was changed to murder in 2017.
Steenkamp's legal representative, Tania Koen, said this time of year is an especially traumatic and sad time for the Steenkamp family, with the upcoming anniversary of Reeva’s death.
Koen said while they understand everyone makes mistakes, it was hurtful that the error comes to light a week before the anniversary of Reeva’s death.
Correctional Services department spokesperson Singabakho Nxumalo said all inmates in South Africa become eligible for parole consideration after serving the minimum required time.
"This does not guarantee parole placement, but is a privilege that must be earned following our prescripts and ultimately, the inmate’s readiness for social reintegration," said Nxumalo.
Kelly Phelps, a senior lecturer at the UCT public law department, said an application was bought before the court and the court had to consider the application.
Phelps said the timing would have been determined by the court’s work schedule. The anniversary of Reeva’s death was purely and unfortunately coincidental.
"Courts can’t simply choose not to hear an application because it coincides with an anniversary," said Phelps.
"Courts are composed of people. All people make mistakes. I don’t believe anything ‘prompted’ the court to make a mistake. It happens, that is partially why we have the opportunity to appeal or make applications, to correct errors," she said.
Phelps said it was the only move available to the court.
“When a mistake is made it must be rectified. Even if the mistake involves an unpopular case. Otherwise the rule of law is a fiction.”