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16 March 2012 at 08:19 - Posted by Anonymous

New law ‘tailor-made to free Selebi’


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Jackie Selebi collapsed at his Pretoria home on the day his appeal failed. The former top cop was convicted for corruption but he has been in hospital for most of the time hes meant to have been in jail. Photo: Sapa

Jackie Selebi won’t have to be terminally ill to get medical parole, and Schabir Shaik may play golf with impunity.

The new medical parole laws are in force, and appear designed to benefit both these high-profile prisoners.

The law was passed a year ago but was not in operation until the commencement date of March 1 was set and signed two days before that by President Jacob Zuma and Correctional Services Minister Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula. It was released this week by the Government Printer.

The old law stated that prisoners “in the final phase of a terminal disease or condition” may be considered for medical parole, “to die a consolatory and dignified death”.

Now it has been broadened so that medical parole may be granted if the prisoner “is suffering from a terminal disease or condition or if such offender is rendered physically incapacitated as a result of injury, disease or illness so as to severely limit daily activity or inmate self-care”.

This description appears to fit Selebi’s situation.

Disgraced former national police commissioner Selebi lost his appeal and started serving his 15-year jail sentence for corruption in December. He collapsed the same day and has been in and out of hospital since then with diabetes and kidney problems which need dialysis.

“It was tailor-made for Selebi,” commented Pretoria lawyer Julian Knight, who has dealt with many parole cases.

It’s also a rewrite which could benefit rightwinger Clive Derby-Lewis, jailed for 25 years for Chris Hani’s 1993 killing, and who was denied ordinary parole last year. Last year he was reported to have cancer.

On Thursday, Correctional Services Ministry spokesman Sonwabo Mbananga said no application for medical parole had been received from or on behalf of Selebi or Derby-Lewis.

Convicted fraudster Shaik, Zuma’s former financial adviser, was sentenced to 15 years in jail in 2006 after being convicted on fraud and corruption charges. He was released on medical parole in 2009 after spending most of his time in hospital. Since then, public queries have been raised about his apparently astonishing return to good health.

The new parole law no longer includes the expectation that a medical parolee will die, so Shaik’s recovery is legally covered. It allows for the cancellation of medical parole, but not “merely on account of the improved medical condition of an offender”.

Mbananga said the change was needed as research indicated that 36 percent of medical parolees did not die soon after.

He said no applications resulting from the broadened definition of medical parole had been received yet. “We are expecting an increased number of applications, naturally, because the criteria have been relaxed,” he said.

Although the previous law allowed for the release of terminally ill inmates, few seem to have got it right.

The Judicial Inspectorate for Correctional Services’ annual report for 2009/10 notes that about 900 inmates died from natural causes that year, mainly age or illness.

It doesn’t say how many got medical parole but notes 822 unspecified complaints by inmates about “medical release”.

Mbananga said 289 cases were considered for medical parole in the past five years, but he could not say how many had been approved.

Last month, Mapisa-Nqakula announced the new medical parole advisory board, independent of her department and chaired by two doctors.

“Only the very sick will be freed. Even if you have HIV and a low CD4 count or TB, you can still be given medicines to improve your health inside prison, meaning that you stay inside,” she said at the time. - The Star

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