Convicted KZN drug dealer wins bid to be considered for parole
A KwaZulu-Natal drug dealer, who has served 11 years of a 25-year prison sentence for dealing in dagga and cocaine, has won his bid to be considered eligible for parole.
The Supreme Court of Appeal (SCA) has ruled unlawful an order made in the Camperdown regional court - and later confirmed by a full bench of three judges in the province - that former Briton John Tutton not be considered for release until he has served at least 15 years of the sentence.
Tutton was convicted in December 2007 for dealing in 8.1 tons of dagga and 150kg of cocaine alongside Tommy Mckinnon. At the time, the two ran the SA arm of an international empire shipping drugs through furniture.
Tutton was initially sentenced to an effective 30 years in jail, with the non-parole stipulation.
On appeal in Pietermaritzburg, the judges reduced the effective prison term to 25 years but retained the non-parole condition.
Tutton, 69, raised this issue with the SCA and on Wednesday the court ruled in his favour.
He argued that prior to the setting of a non-parole period, the court had not notified him of its intention to do so and, on both occasions, he had not been given an opportunity to address the court.
In a judgment penned by Judge Dumisani Zondi, the SCA said the issue of parole had, in the past, been left in the hands of the department of correctional services "and the courts had recognised this need because of the principle of the separation of powers".
However legislation had changed this and courts could now set non-parole periods.
Previous judgments on the issue had noted that non-parole orders should not be resorted to lightly.
"The trial court committed a serious misdirection for not establishing whether there existed exceptional circumstances for making the order. It also did not invite the parties to make any submissions ... and this misdirection was perpetuated in the appeal court."
Judge Zondi said he would not refer the matter back to the trial court to comply with the provisions of the act because it was "fair and equitable" for the matter to be finalised, given the passage of time and the legal costs associated with that.