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Parole only for terminally ill, says judge

Medical parole was meant only for people who were terminally ill, not those suffering from lesser conditions, chairperson of the parole review board Judge Siraj Desai said on Tuesday.

”There is no elasticity in the Act in so far as it concerns medical illnesses generally,” he said in an interview on radio station Cape Talk.

Desai said he was not familiar with the contents of the medical report that the local parole board had weighed up in granting parole to fraud convict Schabir Shaik.

Nor did he want to comment on Shaik’s case, as it might come before him in his capacity as a member of the board. ”But I can say this, that your interpretation of the Act is correct,” he told presenter John Maytham. ”It’s meant for people who are terminally ill.

”The Act is very specific. It’s specific circumstances that permit a parole board to release an offender.”

Desai said, however, that the Correctional Services Act as it stood was not ideal.

There had until 2004 been provision in the law for a wider category of medical parole.

”There is absolutely no reason to detain somebody who is not a danger to society, but very ill and keep them in custody,” he said. ”I personally am of the view that the act should be amended to broaden the scope on which we can release medically unfit persons from prison.

”But the law as it stands is what we have to deal with.”

Desai said the Shaik case could come before the board only if it was referred to it by the minister or national commissioner of correctional services.

Shaik was granted medical parole and released from prison on Tuesday morning. He had served two years and four months of his 15-year prison term. — Sapa

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