Justice minister blocks Oscar Pistorius prison release

Oscar Pistorious was due to be released from prison on Friday. Picture: Instagram
Oscar Pistorious was due to be released from prison on Friday. Picture: Instagram
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OSCAR Pistorius will not be released from prison tomorrow after South Africa’s justice ministry announced its decision to review the decision.

In a statement, the ministry said the decision to release Pistorius ten months into his five-year sentence was made “prematurely” and with “no legal basis”.

The offender was not eligible to be considered at all

South African justice ministry

Pistorius was found guilty of culpable homicide in October last year after shooting dead his girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp.

Ms Steenkamp’s parents yesterday held a beachside ceremony in their hometown of Port Elizabeth on South Africa’s south coast to mark what would have been her 32nd birthday.

The decorated Paralympic athlete now looks set to stay in prison at least until the case has been looked over by South Africa’s correctional supervision and parole review board (CSPB).

The move comes two days after prosecutors filed papers calling for the athlete’s conviction to be reviewed and changed to murder, which carries a minimum sentence of 15 years.

Justice minister Michael Masutha indicated on Tuesday he would consider legal argument relating to Pistorius’ early release, as well as a petition against it by the Progressive Women’s Movement of South Africa.

Key to the decision is a South African law which states that a person “must serve at least one sixth of his or her sentence before being considered for placement under correctional supervisor, unless the court directs otherwise”.

Pistorius had been granted the right to release under house arrest in June, four months before the country’s parole board were legally entitled to make the decision.

In the statement, the South African justice ministry said: “It is apparent therefore that the decision to release [Pistorius] on 21 August 2015 was made prematurely on 5 June 2015 when the offender was not eligible to be considered at all.

“It is therefore clear that there is no legal basis upon which such a decision was made and is in contravention of Section 73 (7) (a) which requires him to have served one sixth of his five years’ sentence.”

The statement added that in this particular instance Masutha had no powers to reject outright Pistorius’ right to release, but only to direct the case back to the CSPB for review.

It continued: “The consequence of this decision is that the earlier decision by the parole board to place the offender under correctional supervision is suspended until the parole review board has decided on the matter.”

Pistorius’ lawyer Brian Webber said: “We’re considering our position.”

The athlete was acquitted of murder at his dramatic trial last year, but convicted of a lesser charge of culpable homicide for shooting Ms Steenkamp multiple times through a closed toilet door in his home.

Pistorius is also facing an appeal at the Supreme Court in November, when prosecutors will again press for a murder conviction and a minimum jail sentence of 15 years.

Ms Steenkamp’s family said in June when Pistorius’ impending release was announced that “incarceration of ten months for taking a life is simply not enough”.