Pistorius spends first night at 'terrible' prison, speculation on State's next move

JULY 7, 2016

Convicted murderer and paralympian Oscar Pistorius spent his first night at the Kgosi Mampuru Correctional Centre, in Pretoria, on Wednesday as speculation lingers on the State's next move after Judge Thokozile Masipa sentenced him to six years for murdering his girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp in 2013.

He previously described the prison as a “terrible” place where he saw an inmate, who hanged himself after being raped, and where he himself was beaten up by another inmate despite being held in a secure hospital wing for vulnerable offenders.

The State had argued for Pistorius to receive the minimum murder sentence of 15 years in prison. It The state has 14 days to appeal the sentence and is expected to bar any intervention from Steenkamp’s family. 

Following the sentencing, the family said they will for now maintain a dignified silence.

"They only wanted the law to run its course, and that has happened. They abide by the ruling," said Dup de Bruyn, lawyer for Reeva’s parents Barry and June.

"They will, from now on, have a dignified silence. We cannot change anything."

In handing down sentence, Judge Masipa said that while the change in conviction had to bring with it a markedly different sentence, there were “substantial and compelling reasons” to deviate from the 15-year minimum sentence for murder, citing as one factor the continuing misperception that Pistorius had intended to kill his girlfriend.

She listed mitigating factors as:

  • Pistorius was vulnerable on his stumps 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”.
  • The judge believed he was genuinely remorseful.

She said the aggravating factors were:

  • Pistorius used a lethal weapon, with high-grade ammunition.
  • He fired four times, “knowing full well” there was someone in the bathroom.
  • He did not take the precaution of firing a warning shot.

Judge Masipa previously found Pistorius guilty of culpable homicide and sentenced him to five years. That conviction was overturned by the Supreme Court of Appeal in December last year, which commuted his conviction to murder.

He served 10 months of the initial 5-year sentence before being placed under house arrest at his uncle's upmarket home in Pretoria.

It is not clear yet how much of the six-year sentence he will be compelled to serve in prison before he will once again be eligible for parole.

His legal counsel has however indicated that they will not be appealing the sentence. 

It is understood that Pistorius could be eligible for release on parole, with an electronic tag, after serving between half and two thirds of his six year sentence - at the discretion of the prison authorities.  

Disappointment at sentence

Meanwhile, many took to social media to voice their disappointment at what they saw as a very leniant sentence compared to the sentences handed down to for example rhino poachers, stock thieves and robbers - as in the case of the men, who robbed SABC journalist Vuyo Mvoko. On Twitter, the hastags #LongerThanOscarsSentence and #OscarWillBeOutbefore trended for several hours. Many have called on the National Prosecuting Authority to appeal the sentence.

However, legal experts said that, while society's disappointment at the sentence is understood, every case had to be considered on its own merits, which is what happened in the Oscar Trial.

The moment Oscar Pistorius heard his sentence, video courtesy of Global Leaks Youtube Channel;

 

Image: Police convoy with Oscar Pistorius arrives at Kgosi Mampuru correctional facility. Image courtesy of Lirandzu Themba via Twitter.