Parole applications for lifers on hold

2010-12-21 13:18

Correctional services says it has put a hold on parole applications by prisoners sentenced to life before 1994 while it “seeks clarity” on the role of the National Council of Correctional Services.

Spokesperson Sonwabo Mbananga said today that the decision followed ambiguity in the interpretation of a Constitutional Court judgment.

The issue had to do with the role the council played in assisting the minister of correctional services in deciding whether to grant parole applications by offenders serving life sentences.

“The ministry of correctional services is of the firm view that any decision by the minister concerning the placement on parole of offenders serving life imprisonment in the absence of or without the recommendation of the council would always constitute reviewable administrative action in our courts,” Mbananga said.

“The Constitutional Court will be asked to assist the process of considering parole applications by offenders serving life sentences by clarify the role of the council, if any, in assisting the minister.”

Mbananga said the confusion arose from a judgment in favour of Paul van Vuuren, whose 1992 death sentence for murder, robbery and other crimes was commuted when the death penalty was declared unconstitutional.

Van Vuuren applied to the Constitutional Court which ordered on September 30 that he was eligible to be considered for parole because he had been in prison for more than 15 years.

The court instructed certain parole functionaries – the case management committee, the Correctional Supervision and Parole Board, and the minister, to consider Van Vuuren’s parole application, “with immediate effect”.

The court failed, however, to mention the council.

A backlog of nearly 500 cases had built up since the judgment.

Mbananga said because the department was “in process of finding clarity” it was not able to fast-track other applications for parole.

“Due consideration will take place,” he said.

“There is no need for people to approach the courts for litigation.”

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