JOHANNESBURG – Oscar Pistorius, the double-amputee Olympic runner who shot his girlfriend to death on Valentine’s Day 2013, can leave prison and move to house arrest next week, South Africa’s Department of Corrections said today.
A parole board at the prison where Pistorius has served nearly a year of his five-year sentence for manslaughter made the decision. It came after an initial ruling to release the athlete in August was canceled at the last minute after intervention by the justice minister.
This time, the board “approved the placement of offender Oscar Pistorius under correctional supervision as from 20 October 2015,” the corrections department said in a statement following the meeting of the parole board earlier today.
Pistorius was acquitted of murder last year for the shooting death of Reeva Steenkamp, but prosecutors have appealed that trial verdict and
will seek a murder conviction again at South Africa’s Supreme Court on Nov. 3.
The appeal will come just two weeks after Pistorius is freed next Tuesday. If Pistorius is convicted of murder by a panel of five judges at the appeal, he faces going back to prison for 15 years, the minimum sentence for murder in South Africa, which no longer has the death penalty.
The spokeswoman for Pistorius’ family, Anneliese Burgess, said in a text message that they had been informed of the decision to release Pistorius but would not be commenting further.
Steenkamp’s parents are trying to “move on with their lives,” their lawyer told the AP.
“Whether Oscar Pistorius remains incarcerated or is released, it’s not going to change anything in their lives,” lawyer Tania Koen said. “It makes no difference to them.”
But, “they still believe that 10 months or 12 months (in jail) is not enough for taking a life,” Koen said.
Pistorius was sentenced to five years after being convicted of culpable homicide, a charge comparable to manslaughter, for shooting Steenkamp, a model and reality TV star. Under South African law, an offender sentenced to five years or less in jail can be released after serving one-sixth – in Pistorius’ case 10 months.
He has maintained he thought Steenkamp was an intruder in his Pretoria home and killed her by mistake. Prosecutors said he shot her intentionally during an argument after she had fled to a bathroom stall.
Pistorius will now be moved to correctional supervision, a form of house arrest, where he will have to live under certain conditions for the next four years. His sentence ends on October 20, 2019.
Pistorius has been informed of those conditions, the corrections department said, although it did not detail them all. It did say that Pistorius would have to continue receiving psychotherapy while under house arrest and would not be allowed to handle any firearms.
Correctional services department spokesman Manelisi Wolela did not rule out ultimately allowing Pistorius to return to training. He also said Pistorius would not be required to wear an electronic tagging device.
Pistorius, known as “Blade Runner” for his carbon-fiber running blades, gained worldwide fame when he ran against able-bodied athletes at the 2012 London Olympics, the first amputee runner to compete at the games.
In June, the same parole board had cleared Pistorius to be released from Kgosi Mampuru II Prison in Pretoria on August 21 only for that decision to be suspended by the minister of justice, who ordered a review.
The 28-year-old Pistorius is expected to serve his house arrest at his uncle’s mansion in an upmarket suburb of Pretoria.