Convicts serving a life sentence have been thrown a lifeline after the Constitutional Court ruled that a section of the Parole Act infringed on their rights. Currently, different parole conditions apply to convicts serving life, depending on the period during which one was sentenced.
Judgment: Imposing a prison sentence wholly without parole, running consecutively with (after) a life sentence, violates the Criminal Procedure Act and the Constitution. (Makhokha v State) pic.twitter.com/IM5BKTxUU2
— Constitutional Court (@ConCourtSA) May 3, 2019
Convicted criminal, Oupa Phaahla, brought this application to the highest court. Fourteen years ago, Phaahla was convicted to life imprisonment and he felt the parole laws infringed on his rights to a fair process. According to the Act in question, anyone sentenced to life before the 1st October 2004 would be eligible for parole after serving 20 years. Those sentenced after that would have to wait an additional five years before being eligible.
Though sentenced a mere four days after that date; he fell into the latter group and challenged it in court. The High Court ruled in his favour and the Constitutional Court agrees.
Constitutional Court judge, Justice Edwin Cameron, says that the Act constitutes a more severe punishment, violating the bill of rights.
“This reasoning cannot stand as additional burdensome parole conditions imposed after the offence was committed like those here; are like a more severe punishment in violation of the bill of rights…Parliament must, within 24 months from the date of this order, amend section 136.1 of the Correctional Services Act to apply parole regimes on the basis of the date of commission.”
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