A former prisoner who was sentenced to 45 years on murder and robbery charges 20 years ago has been awarded R50 000 in damages.
This was for the extra 44 days he spent in prison because Correctional Services ignored a court order for his release on parole.
Judge Vivian Tlhapi of the High Court in Pretoria ordered Justice and Correctional Services Minister Michael Masutha and the parole board chairperson to compensate Mabopane resident Solomon Motaung for the extra time he had to spend behind bars.
In March 1998, Motaung was sentenced to 45 years in jail but the High Court in Pretoria granted an order in July 2013 that he be placed on parole within 30 days of the court order.
He was only placed on parole early in October 2013, despite his repeated complaints to the prison officials and the parole board.
Motaung initially claimed R1.5 million damages from the minister and the board for his unlawful detention.
The chairperson of the parole board claimed he was not aware of the court order when Motaung was considered for parole, but Tlhapi found that prison authorities were aware of the application which resulted in the court order for Motaung’s release, and that the order had been served on them.
The judge added Motaung was sentenced for serious crimes and continued to serve his sentence under supervision, even after he was released on parole.
To be on parole or where a court had directed an individual’s release on parole did not accord a right to freedom, nor did it restore the individual’s right to freedom, she said.
“However, every sentenced prisoner had a legitimate expectation to be released one day on parole and to serve the remainder of their sentence outside the confines of prison walls.”
Tlhapi said Motaung’s frustration as a result of not being released on parole could not be compared with the humiliation and pain suffered by an individual who had not transgressed the law, but whose right to freedom and dignity had been infringed by an unlawful arrest and detention.
Counsel for Motaung argued that his client deserved at least R600 000 as compensation, but the judge ruled that R50 000 would be fair and reasonable.