Correctional Services Minister, Ms Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula - MP, says the Department of Correctional Services is gearing for the implementation of the Constitutional Court decision on parole for lifers
25 Oct 2010
Since the coming into force of the 1998 Correctional Services Act offenders sentenced to life incarceration before 1 October 2004 had to serve a minimum detention period of 20 years before being eligible for consideration for placement on parole.
On 30 September 2010, the Constitutional Court made a ruling in the case of Van Vuren v Minister of Correctional Services and others.
This ruling has brought about a change in the manner in which inmates sentenced to life incarceration before 1 October 2004 must be considered for placement on parole.
In summary the Constitutional Court held as follows:
The minimum detention period for inmates sentenced to life before 1 October 2004 is no longer a blanket 20 year period.
The court held that in order for the provisions of the Act to be constitutional it must be interpreted as stating that inmates sentenced to life before 1 October 2004 must be considered for placement on parole in accordance with the legislative provisions and policies applicable on the date of sentencing.
The court arrived at this interpretation based on the fact that sentenced offenders should benefit from the least severe prescribed punishment applicable at the time of sentencing.
As a result the Constitutional Court identified three distinct policy periods applicable to lifers sentenced before 1 October 2004:
- Inmates sentenced to life between 1 August 1987 and 1 March 1994 – these inmates now qualify for consideration for placement on parole after having served at least 10 years but placement on parole may only in exceptional cases take place before 15 years
- Inmates sentenced to life between 1 March 1994 and 3 April 1995 – these inmates qualify for consideration for placement on parole after having served at least 20 years
- Inmates sentenced to life between 3 April 1995 and 1 October 2004 – these inmates qualify for consideration for placement on parole after having served at least 20 years, provided that in exceptional cases it can be done earlier (the policy stipulates these exceptions)
In order to give effect to the court’s judgment the following steps have and will be taken:
- An audit is being has been undertaken of all inmates sentenced to life before 1 October 2004, in accordance with the time periods indicated above
- A circular will be sent out to direct all regions to prioritise the consideration of placement on parole of inmates sentenced to life before 1 October 2004 based upon the policies and provisions applicable on the date of sentencing
- The basic impact of the decision is that inmates sentenced between 1987 and 1994 who would not necessarily have appeared before a Parole Board as yet, in terms of the 20 year policy that was applied, must now be prioritised for consideration by the different case management committees.
This judgment must however not be understood to mean that any inmate sentenced to life incarceration before 1 October 2004 has a right to be placed on parole or day parole.
All this judgment intends to facilitate is that inmates sentenced to life incarceration during different periods when different legislative and policy provisions applied have a right to be considered for placement on parole after having served the minimum detention period applicable to their specific circumstances.
Tel: 012 305 8850
Cell: 082 045 3963
Issued by: Department of Defence
25 Oct 2010
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