In Brief

Oscar Pistorius leaves prison: what happens next?

Reeva Steenkamp’s cousin believes Pistorius is ‘getting off lightly’

The disgraced Olympian Oscar Pistorius left prison last night after his request to serve the rest of his sentence under house arrest was granted by a parole board.

The athlete had been expected to leave Kgosi Mampuru II prison in Pretoria today, but apparently arrived at his uncle Arnold's home just after 10pm last night.

The BBC's Karen Allen said the early departure was presumably designed to "avoid the media glare".

One official told News24 that the decision had been kept top secret, with only senior managers in South Africa's Department of Correctional Services aware that he would be released a day early.

An official spokesman for the department insisted the early release did not constitute preferential treatment. "This is not the only case where this has happened. It has happened before," said spokesman Manelisi Wolela

He added: "The handling of the actual placement is an operational matter of the local management, and how they handle it is their prerogative that is carried out in the best interest of all parties concerned, the victims, the offender and the Department of Correctional Services."

The athlete, now 28, had been in prison since October last year, when he was sentenced to five years for killing his girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp in February 2013.

Under South African law, offenders sentenced to five years or less are eligible to be considered for parole after serving one sixth of their sentence in custody. For Pistorius, this was after ten months.

However, the justice ministry initially blocked his release in August, arguing that the decision to release him was made before the ten-month period was over.

Pistorius will remain under correctional supervision until 20 October 2019.

The Department of Correctional Services said the Parole Board had given Pistorius his correctional supervision conditions, which include "continued psychotherapy and prohibitions in line with the Fire Arms Control Act".

In order to reach its decision, the parole board considered Pistorius's profile report, submissions from the victim's family and the directives of the Parole Review Board, which has been reviewing the case.

Steenkamp's cousin Kim Martin said she thought Pistorius was "getting off lightly". However, she said the family might consider visiting Pistorius when the time is "right".

A lawyer for Steenkamp's family said nothing had changed for the victim's parents June and Barry. "Nothing will bring Reeva back," she said. They were "not surprised at all" by the announcement that he would be leaving prison. "They expected this," she said.

Will Pistorius carry out community service?

Ahead of sentencing last year, Pistorius's defence lawyers argued that he should serve a community-based sentence, such as 16 hours of domestic cleaning a month. Annette Vergeer, a probation officer who acted as a witness in Pistorius's sentencing hearing, suggested he could even work with disabled children. She went into detail about a Gateway programme that helps children in other countries such as Mozambique. However, offenders are typically banned from leaving their ministerial district let alone the country.

One of Pistorius's lawyers told The Sunday Times in May that his client was still interested in working with children once released from prison. Rohan Kruger, who works on the defence team with lead counsel Barry Roux, told the newspaper: "Oscar is keen to become involved in assisting children in whatever opportunity will present."

Will Pistorius return to athletics?

According to South Africa's Centre for the Study of Violence and Reconciliation, correctional supervision aims to provide a means of rehabilitation within the community and allows – even encourages – the offender to be employed. The International Paralympic Committee has previously said Pistorius, known as the Blade Runner, could resume his career once he has served his sentence, and the South African Olympic Committee has confirmed that it has no regulations barring athletes with a criminal record.

Where will Pistorius live?

Pistorius looks likely to live under "virtual house arrest" at his uncle's home in the Waterkloof suburb of Pretoria. The Parole Review Board has said that he must be "subjected to psychotherapy in order to address criminogenic factors of the crime he committed".

However, his relative freedom could be "short-lived" if prosecutors are able to persuade the Supreme Court of Appeal next month that his verdict should be upgraded to murder, a conviction that carries a minimum of 15 years in prison, with no opportunity for house arrest.

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