Judge: Shaik would stay free

2010-01-27 07:28

Pretoria - If the medical parole policy was changed it would have no bearing on prisoners who had been granted parole prior to its enactment, chair of the national council on correctional services, Judge Siraj Desai said in Pretoria on Tuesday.

"These rules do not envisage being retrospective in nature," Desai said in response to media questions relating to how a new policy would impact on convicted fraudster's Schabir Shaik's medical parole.

He said recommendations of the new policy were that medical parole could be revoked if a person recovered from an illness.

"If a person is released on medical parole, in terms of these proposals he can he be reconsidered if he gets better. His parole could be reviewed."

In opening remarks earlier, Correctional Services Minister Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula said research indicated that "well over 60%" of offenders granted parole on medical grounds have gone on to make a full recovery, leading productive lives.

"The law is silent as to whether such persons should finish their sentences in incarceration or at correctional centres," she said.

Recommendations for medical parole

Recommendations for those eligible for consideration included prisoners who were bedridden, terminally ill, had a physical disability that prevented personal hygiene functions, had a cognitive disability which had worsened since imprisonment and a physical disability which had deteriorated and impacted on human dignity.

Mapisa-Nqakula said previously medical practitioners had shied away from declaring someone "in the final phase of any terminal disease or condition" because it was difficult to determine with absolute clarity.

In some instances this was also because they could be held liable if this was not in fact the case.

"A number of bedridden inmates did not qualify for placement on parole under this provision, despite the fact that their human dignity was seriously impaired by their continued incarceration in such circumstances," she said.

Recommendations also included a pregnant offender and any other case where it was considered that further incarceration would reduce a prisoner's life expectancy.

HIV-positive inmates

Parole for patients with HIV/Aids would form part of deliberations.

"Tackling this pandemic with our correctional services facilities has not been easy pickings," she said, adding that the life expectancy of someone living with HIV/Aids was difficult to predict.

Policy recommendations regarding prisoners who were granted medical parole including helping to find them accommodation with access to medical facilities and eligibility for public benefits such as old age pensions.

It was also suggested that there should be written acceptance of responsibility by an appropriate adult to take care of the person.

The document was expected to be completed by the end of the financial year.