Prosecutors turn to Supreme Court over Oscar Pistorius sentence appeal

SEPTEMBER 16, 2016

The news has not been greeted with cheers on social media, but State Prosecutors on Thursday announced that they were petitioning the Supreme Court of Appeal (SCA) to allow them to appeal convicted murderer and former paralympian Oscar Pistorius' six-year sentence.

This is after lead prosecutor, Advocate Gerrie Nel's application for leave to appeal the sentence was denied in the Gauteng High Court, last month. Their only option was to turn to the SCA.

At the end of July, the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) said that it had carefully considered the sentence and decided to file an application for leave to appeal the sentence imposed by Judge Masipa in the Gauteng High Court, in Pretoria, on 6 July. 

Judge Masipa sentenced Pistorius to six years behind bars for the murder of his girlfriend, Reeva Steenkamp, on Valentines Day 2013.

"We respectfully submit that the sentence of six years imprisonment, in all the circumstances, is disproportionate to the crime of murder committed, in casu, that is to say, shockingly too lenient, and has accordingly resulted in an injustice and has the potential to bring the administration of justice into disrepute," the NPA said.

"We hope that this appeal will also clarify further the principles of sentencing, particularly in crime categories for which there are prescribed minimum sentences ordained by legislation, notwithstanding the fact that a judicial officer has a discretion to deviate from the minimum sentence after considering compelling circumstances."

Before the appeal was heard before the High Court, Reeva Steenkamp's parents, June and Barry, said that, while they have always fully supported Nel, and his team’s fight for justice for Reeva, they had no input in the decision of the state to appeal the six-year sentence.

Why six years?

In handing down sentence, she said that 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 was 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 however indicated that they will not be appealing the sentence. 

Pistorius was then taken down to the cells, where he was taken to the Kgosi Mampuru Correctional Centre in Pretoria to start serving his sentence.

Still many took to social media claiming that he has once again gotten away with murder for the second time.

ANC Women’s League spokesperson, Jacqui Mofokeng, who was at the court, told the media that a six-year jail term is an insult to women. They had expected at least 10 years.

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