Oscar Pistorius is to be released from prison and into house arrest next week, 12 months after he was sentenced to five years for killing his girlfriend, Reeva Steenkamp.
In a statement, South Africa’s department of correctional services said the 28-year-old Paralympian would be released on Tuesday and placed under supervision. It indicated that Pistorius has been a good inmate and qualifies for house arrest, a routine procedure in South Africa.
Full details of the conditions were not revealed by the corrections department, although it did say that Pistorius would have to continue receiving psychotherapy and would not be allowed to possess a firearm.
Criminal lawyer David Dadic said: “He’s not ‘out’ on parole … he’s having his sentence converted to a house arrest sentence. He’s now confined to a house for a period. They’ll confine him essentially to what he would be doing in prison but in the confines of his own house.”
After a seven-month trial, Pistorius was convicted in September last year of killing Steenkamp on Valentine’s Day in 2013. He was found guilty of culpable homicide, a charge equivalent to manslaughter, after saying during the trial that he shot his girlfriend through a locked bathroom door because he mistook her for an intruder.
He was due to be moved to house arrest in August after serving 10 months behind bars, but Michael Masutha, the justice minister,referred the matter back to the parole review board, sowing legal confusion and doubts over the release date.
A parole hearing to decide whether Pistorius should be released from prison early was postponed last week.
Steenkamp’s parents say Pistorius killed their daughter on purpose and have consistently opposed parole. Steenkamp would have turned 32 in August. That month, her mother, June Steenkamp, told a South African tabloid: “For our beautiful daughter – for anyone’s life – it’s definitely not long enough. She was robbed of her future, her career, her chance to get married and have a baby.”
On 3 November prosecutors will appeal to South Africa’s supreme court to try to secure a murder conviction and a stronger sentence for Pistorius. If they win their case, he could face at least 15 years in jail.
“I think the chances are pretty good that the appeals court will rule in favour of the state and overturn the verdict,” said Ulrich Roux, a criminal lawyer in Johannesburg. “He is faced with the unusual circumstance that he’s released on house arrest and then the court could find him guilty of murder and he’ll have to return to prison.”
Pistorius, whose legs were amputated below the knee when he was 11 months old, has no immediate hope of salvaging his athletic career whatever the outcome of the appeal. There is speculation that he will serve his house arrest at his uncle’s house – a mansion in an upmarket Pretoria suburb – where he lived during his trial. His previous home, where he shot Steenkamp, was sold for £220,000 to pay his legal fees.
Martin Hood, another criminal lawyer in Johannesburg, said: “I think he’s going to come out very quietly, and very discreetly and he’s going to disappear and stay off the radar. If he breaches any of his conditions he’ll lose his house arrest.”
A typical offender under house arrest has his movements restricted and is not allowed to drink alcohol, but conditions vary widely. “He may have an electronic tag and he would also be subject to correctional services visits,” Hood said, adding that Pistorius could have to serve community service in a hospital or morgue.
Pistorius’s trial exposed the athlete’s darker side, offering glimpses of a dangerously volatile man with a penchant for guns, women and fast cars.
The athlete sobbed and vomited in the dock as details of his lover’s brutal death were examined in detail during the trial.
Zach Modise, correctional services head, said Pistorius, who has been housed in Pretoria’s Kgosi Mampuru II prison, initially wrestled with his sentence, but then committed to reform.
“At the beginning he could not understand that you get locked up in a cell. He struggled with that,” Modise told South Africa’s Sunday Times. “I think he’s getting to understand you have to control your anger and temper. I hope when he gets released on probation he will be able to conduct himself well.”