30 March 2023

Oscar Pistorius set for parole hearing 10 years after killing girlfriend

30 March 2023

Former Olympic runner Oscar Pistorius is expected to attend a parole hearing that will decide if he can be released from prison 10 years after killing his girlfriend.

He was convicted of killing Reeva Steenkamp by shooting her multiple times through a toilet door in his home on Valentine’s Day 2013.

He could leave Atteridgeville Correctional Centre in Pretoria on Friday if his parole is granted, although the Department of Corrections said the process may take days to finalise if his application is successful.

Ms Steenkamp’s parents, Barry and June Steenkamp, have said they oppose Pistorius’s release and are allowed to address the parole board at his hearing. A submission by a victim’s relatives is one of numerous factors taken into account.

“He is a murderer. He should remain in jail,” Mr Steenkamp said in an interview published last month on the 10th anniversary of his daughter’s killing.

The Department of Corrections declined to give details on Pistorius’s hearing, saying it was “an internal matter” like any other parole hearing.

According to guidelines, the board will consider the offence Pistorius was convicted of, his conduct and disciplinary record in prison, whether he took part in educational or other training courses, his mental and physical state, whether he is likely to “relapse into crime” and the risk he poses to the public.

Legal expert Neo Mashele said: “Generally speaking, the behaviour of the offender is the most important consideration.” Pistorius’s parole lawyer, Julian Knight, previously said the athlete had been a “model prisoner”.

Pistorius, who is now 36, was ultimately convicted of murder after prosecutors appealed against an initial conviction for culpable homicide, which is comparable to manslaughter.

He was eventually sentenced to 13 years and five months in prison in 2017, again after a prosecution appeal against a lighter sentence.

Offenders in South Africa convicted of serious crimes must serve at least half their sentence before being considered for parole. Pistorius has done that after taking into account the time he served in jail from late 2014 while the appeals in his case were heard.

He could be released on full parole or placed on day parole, where he would be allowed to live and work in the community during the day but have to return to prison at night.

He could also be placed under correctional supervision, which means he would be released but have to spend some of his time during the week at a correctional centre.

Pistorius’s parole could be denied, where the board usually asks the offender to reapply at a later stage.

He had both his lower legs amputated as a baby and walks with prosthetics. The multiple Paralympic champion was once hailed as an inspirational figure, but his murder trial and downfall captivated the world.

His crime eventually led to him being sent to Kgosi Mampuru II maximum security prison, one of South Africa’s most notorious. He was moved to Atteridgeville in 2016 because that facility is better suited to disabled prisoners.

Reports claim he had at one point grown a beard, gained weight and taken up smoking, and was unrecognisable from the elite athlete who competed against able-bodied runners on his carbon-fibre blades at the 2012 London Olympics.

He has spent much of his time working in an area of the prison grounds where vegetables are grown, sometimes driving a tractor. His father, Henke Pistorius, said in a 2018 interview that he was running bible classes for other inmates.

There have also been flashes of trouble. Pistorius sustained an injury in an altercation with another inmate over a public telephone in 2017. A year earlier, he received treatment for injuries to his wrists, which his family denied were a result of him harming himself.

Pistorius has been seeking parole since 2021 but a hearing that year was cancelled partly because he had not yet met with Mr and Mrs Steenkamp in a process known as a victim-offender dialogue.

He claims he shot 29-year-old Ms Steenkamp by mistake with his licensed pistol because he thought she was a dangerous intruder.

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