Shaik/Selebi sentence reduction: Remission of sentence undermines judiciary
James Selfe, DA Spokesperson on Correctional Services
29 April 2012
Reports today indicate that former National Police Commissioner Jackie Selebi, and President Zuma’s former financial advisor Schabir Shaik, will be among those who will benefit from the special remission of sentence announced by the President on Friday.
Shaik and Selebi are among the 14 651 inmates, and 20 855 prisoners who are out on parole or probation, who stand to have their sentences reduced.
Commenting on the decrease in Selebi’s sentence, Minister of Correctional Services Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula said yesterday, “What difference will it make to the sentence he will serve? If you calculate, it really makes very little difference. The same applies to Shaik.”
The Minister misses the point entirely.
Blanket remission of sentence, such as that announced by President Zuma, diminishes the deterrent effect of sentences.
Judges hand down sentences on a case-by-case and individual basis based on the law and the circumstances at play. A blanket remission of sentence undermines the careful consideration of factors on which judges make sentencing decisions.
This accordingly undermines that process, and judicial independence and discretion.
Alternative ways should be sought to address the overcrowding in our prisons. The use of alternative community-based sentences, for example, enables perpetrators to pay back into society what they have taken out through acts of crime, without making a mockery of justice.