This morning, South African athlete Oscar Pistorius was sentenced to 6 years imprisonment for the murder of his girlfriend, Reeva Steenkamp. Thokozile Masipa, the judge who pronounced the judgement this morning was the same judge who presided over his original trial and gave him a light sentence back in September 2014. Is she the highest judge in South Africa?
Read her full court statement explaining reasons for her judgement after the cut…
‘It is for this court now to impose the appropriate sentence for murder,’ she begins. ‘I must decide whether there is any cause not to impose the 15-year minimum sentence having considered all the evidence but will not set it all out in detail now.’
Masipa talks about the evidence given by defence witness Professor Jonathan Scholtz, a clinical psychologist who reported on Pistorius’ mental state.
According to Masipa, Scholtz found that Pistorius displayed symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder, anxiety and depression, and was not well enough to testify in the sentencing proceedings.
Scholtz’s report, she reads, says Pistorius’ childhood experiences made “him aware of his own and his family’s vulnerability to crime”.
‘Scholtz’s report argued that Pistorius had suffered from media attention and negative experiences in prison, such as overhearing the rape of an inmate and witnessing his subsequent hanging.’
‘These were not supported by anything concrete. Evidence from a prison employee suggested it was not possible for him to have witnessed this’
‘Scholtz did not fare well under cross-examination”, Masipa says.
‘He could not back up some of the claims made, about the prison experience or claims that medication was withheld from Pistorius in prison but he was a truthful witness’
‘Murder is always a very serious crime.That the accused thought it was an intruder does not make it any less serious.’
‘The interests of society demand that crimes of murder be punished severely. But the demands must be legitimate, the defence argued that the perception persists that Pistorius deliberately killed Steenkamp.’
‘This is not a case of gender violence, there is no indication at all that the deceased was in an abusive relationship.’
‘Society’s expectations for punishment cannot be legitimate if they are based on wrong perceptions”
”It is not surprising that the family is still grieving, they had “a very close bond … they feel the loss deeply”
”The pain runs deep and the impact of the accused’s conduct on the family of the deceased has been devastating.”
‘The court is obliged to impose the minimum sentence of 15 years unless there are substantial and compelling reasons to reduce it.
‘It is up to the court to decide what constitutes substantial and compelling circumstances’
‘It is incumbent on the court to consider whether any sentence is proportionate to the offence, taking into account the seriousness of the crime and the culpability of the offender.
‘To deviate from the minimum sentence it must take into account the particular circumstances of the case’
‘The more uneasy a court feels about a sentence, the more likely it is that an injustice can be perpetrated. Pistorius used a lethal weapon, with high-grade ammunition, and fired four times, knowing full well there was someone in the bathroom. He did not take the precaution of firing a warning shot.’
‘Pistorius was vulnerable without his protheses, he believed the person in the bathroom was an intruder. He immediately took steps to try to save the deceased’s life”.
‘I disagree with the state prosecution that Pistorius showed no remorse’
”He apologised in court, and previously and unsuccessfully tried to contact the Steenkamp family privately, more than once. It undermines any notion that he apologised as a ploy”.
”He will only persist in his efforts to apologise to the family because he was genuinely remorseful”.
‘Mitigating factors outweigh the aggravating ones, and there are compelling reasons to deviate from the 15-year minimum.’
‘Pistorius was on his stumps and was vulnerable. The pain of the Steenkamp family is real and it is tangible.
”But the misperception persists that Pistorius intended to kill Reeva Steenkamp and that cannot be ignored”
”Our courts are courts of law not courts of public opinion and public indignation must be based on facts. Wrong perceptions exist in this case and it is the duty of the court to correct it to prevent unjustified outrage from the public”.
‘Public opinion may be loud and persistent but it can play no role in the decision of this court.’
‘There are “two Oscars” – the successful athlete and the vulnerable disabled man. But this is not the only factor to consider. The defence wants a non-custodial sentence and have cited workshops on anger management as proof he had been rehabilitated but deterrence and retribution are just as important.
”Rehabilitation programmes may not be sufficient now that Pistorius’ conviction has been upgraded to murder, but he is a good candidate for rehabilitation”.
Pistorius has already spent time in prison, and the court heard evidence that he struggled as an inmate. But she does not accept that he was vilified or treated badly by prison officials.[Being] quick-tempered does not necessarily mean he is a violent person.I’m not convinced by the evidence given by Scholtz that Pistorius ought to be hospitalized’
‘No sentence will please everyone. Nothing will bring back the deceased.
‘The life of the accused will never be the same. He is a fallen hero, he cannot be at peace. I was not surprised to hear him described as a broken man.’
‘It was a noble gesture of Pistorius to offer to do community service but punishment is not what you choose to do. It ought to be painful although a long-term imprisonment will not serve justice’
‘Mr Pistorius, please rise, the sentence that i impose for the murder dolus eventualis of the deceased that is Reeva Steenkamp is six years imprisonment.’
Credit: Guardian UK