Monday, April 22, 2024

Pistorius parole hearing halted

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Oscar Pistorius’ bid for parole collapsed in South Africa after it was revealed he had not yet served enough time to qualify for early release.

The 36-year-old former Paralympian is serving 13 years for the murder of his girlfriend, Reeva Steenkamp, in 2013.

The parole board met to hear evidence, including from Pistorius and Steenkamp’s mother.

But instead of giving a decision afterwards, embarrassed officials admitted their timings had been wrong.

Earlier this week, they had received, but ignored, a letter from South Africa’s top appeals court, which explained that Pistorius needed to spend another year and a half in prison before he could be considered for parole.

The hearing at Atteridgeville prison, a low-security facility in rolling fields just outside the city of Pretoria, should never have happened.

For weeks, officials had insisted the amputee former sprinter was eligible to apply for parole, having served half his sentence.

The confusion stems from the fact that Pistorius’s time in prison has been broken up by appeals and by a period of house arrest.

There is disagreement about where to draw the halfway line.

Pistorius’ family have expressed dismay and are seeking legal clarification.

It has been an emotional day for the Steenkamp family, who welcomed the fact that Pistorius will not be yet be freed.

“Today is not a cause for celebration. We miss Reeva terribly and will do so for the rest of our lives. We believe in justice and hope that it continues to prevail,” their statement said.

When June Steenkamp, Reeva’s mother, spoke to reporters before the hearing she said she opposed the release of her daughter’s killer: “I don’t believe Oscar is remorseful… or rehabilitated.”

The six-time Paralympic gold medallist has expressed his deep remorse for killing his girlfriend on Valentine’s Day in 2013, but continues to maintain he shot her by mistake, believing she was a robber.

Pistorius was initially found guilty of culpable homicide and given a six-year term. But prosecutors launched an appeal, arguing this was too lenient.

The sentence was increased to 13 years as he was then convicted of murder.

This verdict was based on the grounds that he must have known his actions – shooting three times through a locked bathroom door in his Pretoria home – would lead to the death of whoever was on the other side.

The televised trial of the man once dubbed “the Blade Runner”, because of the ground-breaking prosthetic legs he wore in both Paralympic and Olympic track races, attracted huge global attention.

It now seems likely that he will not have an opportunity to leave prison before August 2024. (BBC)

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