A victim of stock theft has the right to be present at the parole board session when the possible release of an offender is considered.
Th e Department of Correctional Services has developed procedures to facilitate and encourage the involvement of victims at the parole board session when the possible release of offenders is considered.
A victim may either attend a parole board session when possible placing of an offender on parole or under correctional supervision is considered, or request that the parole board consider a written representation. The board may consider tape recordings and other forms of representation.
A victim may also request to be informed about the development programmes the offender has undergone or is still undergoing to improve his or her behaviour. Such a request may only be granted if the offender gave written consent in this regard.
If victims want to be involved in the parole board session, the particular parole board must be notified in writing. The victim’s request will be recorded and he or she will be informed regarding the process and any decision of the parole board to release the offender. He or she will also be informed in the event that the offender has escaped, died, or been transferred, or if parole is withdrawn after release.
A victim must provide the following information to the relevant parole board in writing:
- the name of the offender
- the crime committed
- the case number
- the date and name of the court where the offender has been sentenced
- the full name and ID number of the victim and his or her postal address
Victims must inform the parole board of a change of address.
All reasonable steps are taken to ensure that the contact details of victims are kept confidential and not disclosed to offenders.
In the normal course of events and to comply with the principle of audi alteram partem (to hear the other person’s viewpoint), the offender will be present when the victim’s representation is made. Nevertheless, if a victim makes a personal representation during the parole board session, the chairperson will take all possible steps to ensure that the victim is protected from the offender and that no victimisation takes place during the session.
In certain circumstances, such as when children or vulnerable victims are involved, arrangements will be made so that the offender need not be seen. If victims have any concerns in this regard, they must discuss the matter with the parole board, who will address their needs, fears and concerns.
Victims may be accompanied by any person of their choice to provide moral support. In a case of stock theft the victim may be supported by persons from organised agriculture. However, the parole board must be notified of the identity of the supporter, to arrange with the security personnel to facilitate access to the correctional centre.
When the possible release on parole of an offender is considered, various factors are taken into account, including, among others:
- the offender’s response to development and treatment programmes associated with rehabilitation
- the existence and quality of support systems in the community
- the probability of recurrent offences
- the risk such an offender may pose to the community at large, together with the risk to the complainant.
The combination of all these factors will influence the parole board’s decision and it is therefore important that complainants get involved in the process. The victim’s representation could play an important role in determining parole conditions in the event that the offender is placed on parole or under correctional supervision.
However, a victim does not participate in the decision-making process of the parole board. If, during the parole board session, it appears that no reconciliation has taken place between victim and offender, the parole board will consider postponing a decision on the release of the offender, with a view to possible mediation.
Victims who made representations or requested to be informed about parole decisions will be notified in writing of the parole board’s decision. Those present at the parole board session will be informed verbally of the decision during the session.
If the victim is dissatisfied with the decision by the parole board and is of the opinion that the parole board made a mistake, he or she may write to the national commissioner or relevant area commissioner and provide reasons for his or her opinion. Representation will be considered with all the relevant facts, after which the victim will be informed of the outcome.
A victim may contact the parole board at the correctional centre nearest to the court where the offender was sentenced. Contact details can also be obtained from any correctional institution, including community correctional offices or the local telephone directory. Address information is also available on the web page of the Department of Correctional Services at www.dcs.gov.za.
In the event that the accused, after release on parole, acts in a way suggesting that he or she may pose a risk to public security, or contravenes any parole conditions, he or she can be arrested to serve the remainder of the sentence in prison.