Though speaking guardedly, murdered Reeva Steenkamp’s parents think the time is “not right” to release their daughter’s killer, Oscar Pistorius, on parole yet.
In a legal letter to Julian Knight, the disgraced Paralympian’s lawyer, June and Barry Steenkamp stated unequivocally … “we remain of the view that your client is not yet eligible for consideration for placement on parole…” – but indicated they “have been participating fully” in the parole process.
In a war of words, Knight accused the Steenkamps of “deliberately punishing” Pistorius – an allegation the Steenkamp’s lawyer, Tania Koen, “rejected with contempt”, saying her clients “instead of enjoying their advanced years with Reeva… find themselves [preparing] to meet their daughter’s killer face to face”.
Knight has subsequently apologised to the Steenkamps.
The pair, now well into their 70s, are preparing to complete a victim-offender dialogue (VOD) for his parole application.
“Questions about parole are premature as we are dealing with the VOD,” Koen said.
“There is no application as he does not apply. He becomes eligible after serving half his sentence.”
Law expert Dr Llewelyn Curlewis said the two attorneys “are threatening each other with defamation but this had nothing to do with Pistorius, the Steenkamps or the parole programme”.
Curlewis added they had to work around it because the parole application could not move forward without the victim-offender mediation process.
“After the mediation process, a recommendation is made by the family’s attorney to the board. Then the parole board had to decide if the recommendation outweighed their findings, but they weren’t bound to the recommendation,” he said.
Curlewis said the parole application of serving 50% of the sentence was to give the person who broke the law the opportunity to rehabilitate.
“In my opinion, criminals cannot be rehabilitated,” he added.
“Pistorius might be unsuccessful now, but who knows what will happen in a few months?”
Victimologist Professor Jaco Barkhuizen said parole should never be seen as a given.
“That is not the point of parole. All the factors should be considered, not just a date. We have to take the feelings and effects of releasing someone on parole would have on the family of the victim,” he said.
Barkhuizen added the VOD should start a year before parole was even an option.
“You cannot force the victim into a victim-offender dialogue. If the victim or the victim’s family feel they want to be part of the victim-offender dialogue, it’s rightly so their choice,” he said.
Criminologist Prof Anni Hesselink said each parole candidate’s application was measured on its own merits.
“The interests of the community have to be balanced with the offender’s circumstances,” She explained that the offender’s delayed parole application and the trauma of the process of being deprived of his support structure could not measure against what the victim’s family was going through.
Hesselink said Pistorius’ profile showed good behaviour in incarceration but added there were other incidents where he showed aggressive behaviour.
“One needs to weigh up the trauma of the victim and circumstance of the offender, ultimately the ball is in correctional services’ hands,” she said.
Hesselink said the victim’s family was still grieving and traumatised by the loss.
“Clearly it is a problem to come to the victim’s dialogue at the moment, which shows that they have not yet made peace with what happened,” she said.
Hesselink said it could be that they do not want to see him face to face because it would be a trauma for them again.