Minister of Justice & Correctional Services, Ronald Lamola has instructed the National Commissioner of Correctional Services, Arthur Fraser, to take the decision to place convicted rapist Bob Hewitt on parole on review.
"Upon studying the Correctional Supervision and Parole Review Board's (CSPB) decision, the Minister noted with grave concern the lack of participation by the victims of crimes in the parole consideration process.
"It is critical that the justice system in all its facets pays a considerable amount of attention to the victim-centric approach, as envisioned in national framework on sexual offences of 2012," spokesperson Chrispin Phiri said in a statement on Sunday.
This comes after News24 earlier reported that a letter seen by the publication from the chairperson of the Correctional Supervision and Parole Board for St. Albans - a Ms CC Binta - states that Hewitt will be released on September 23.The letter is dated September 12, and states that Hewitt will be placed under "High Risk category for the duration of his parole which will end on September 19, 2022".
The letter further explained that "when an offender has served the minimum detention period of his/her sentence, he/she qualifies to be considered by the Correctional Supervision and Parole Board for placement on parole".
This decision follows an application for consideration received by the board on August 13, 2019.
Hewitt, 79, was convicted for the rape of two young women and sexually assaulting another who he coached in the 1980s and 1990s. He was sentenced to six years in prison, News24 reported.
News24 further confirmed - through lawyer Tania Koen - that the survivors would be seeking an urgent review of the decision as they had not been asked to make representations on the matter.
Koen represents two out of the three survivors.
"The survivors are very surprised and shocked that they did not get an opportunity to make representations to the board. One victim told me she felt 'raped again' by this news because there was a total disregard for her rights," Koen told News24 on Sunday.
In light of the above, the minister has instructed Fraser to take the matter on a review with the CSPRB, as per Section 77(1) of the Correctional Services Act.
"Minister Lamola is of the view that it is fair and in the interests of justice that the victims and their families are afforded an opportunity to participate in the parole consideration process of the offender, as required by laws governing our parole process," Phiri explained.
Koen told News24 she welcomes the minister's decision as it affords the survivors an opportunity to make representations.
"We are happy with the minister's decision to review because it gives the victims the opportunity to put forward their representations.
"That is the way things should be done, this is a victory for victims whose rights are disregarded by certain officials - because that is what happened here," she said.
As a result of the above decision, a date of placement for inmate Hewitt is now suspended.