Killer teen’s lawyer pleads for leniency

IOL DF griquatown DFA The 17-year-old convicted killer is seen here with family members in court. File picture: Danie van der Lith

Kimberley - The defence for the 17-year-old boy, who murdered three members of the Steenkamp family on a farm near Griquatown, was unable to provide the court with evidence that he expressed remorse.

Deon Steenkamp, 44, his wife, Christel, 43, and their daughter, Marthella, 14 Steenkamp were shot several times while Marthella was also raped and tortured before her death.

During final arguments in the Northern Cape High Court on Tuesday, Riaan Bode, for the defence, stated that he willingly would have called his client to the stand to testify, under oath, that he was remorseful for his actions.

“I never received any such instruction.”

He pointed out that many offenders refused to take responsibility for their actions and that it was the duty of the Department of Correctional Services to offer rehabilitation programmes in order to address this.

Bode added that it was extremely difficult to comprehend how the accused, at such a tender age, could have committed these crimes.

“The incident could not have occurred under normal circumstances.”

He pointed out that psychopathic elements could not be diagnosed at this stage while the killer’s characteristics did not match any psychological profile.

He asked the court for leniency based on the age of the boy and his ability to rehabilitate.

“What product is returned to society after a long prison term? Punishment should focus on reintegration and not the maximum punishment of 25 years imprisonment.”

Bode was at pains to propose a suitable prison term but requested that the sentences for the murders, rape and defeating the ends of justice, should run concurrently.

Bode reminded the court that, in terms of the Child Justice Act, the interests of the child was of paramount importance, where the shortest period of detention possible was advocated.

He pointed out that if the accused was an adult, he would qualify for a life sentence.

“The accused was 15 years and eight months old at the time of the crimes and has already been in custody for some time.”

Bode advised that, if the accused was forced to serve 25 years in prison, he would be 40 years old upon his release.

“Adolescence is a sensitive stage of development and he will spend most of his time in prison. At some point he will have to be released back into society.”

He acknowledged that there was no sentence that could rectify the harm that resulted from the terrible tragedy or replace the lives lost.

He believed that, with a supportive network of the family and guardians, the boy had the potential to rehabilitate.

“No one was more affected than Deon’s mother, Bettie Steenkamp. She lost her life partner (her husband, Don) shortly afterwards and yet she is able to forgive the boy. The guardians also related that it was an honour to take care of him.”

He added that the boy never displayed “any violence or committed any further crimes, despite enormous pressure, emotional frustration and access to firearms”.

Bode pointed out that apart from the 23 incidents of abnormal behaviour where he left his desk or dropped his trousers or wandered out of the classroom at Grey College, the boy displayed no disciplinary or behavioural problems.

“Before the incident there were no tell tale signs to predict the tragedy or a history of violent behaviour.”

He acknowledged the tremendous impact the murders had on the surviving family, including on an economic level.

“Following the incident there was a pattern of lying, an obsession with pocket money, his inheritance and bicycle that was promised to him by Deon.”

Bode indicated that the boy was not cold or emotionless following the tragic incident.

“It cannot be argued that, because it is strange that he never reacted as expected or expressed the required emotions, that he is not capable of being reintegrated into society. The accused will be forced to undergo rehabilitation and if he is not remorseful, he will not be considered eligible for parole.”

Bode pondered whether the accused had the ability to manipulate expert professionals such as psychologists, social workers and psychiatrists, who interviewed him.

He believed that the accused had not been influenced by any external forces as he had never spoken about the incident to anyone.

Bode noted the violence with which the crimes were committed where the deceased sustained multiple gunshot wounds, but stated that the killer was a first offender who had not committed any crimes after the murders.

He advised that the accused be listed on the register of sexual offences as he had been found guilty of the rape of a minor and that he should be declared unfit to own a firearm.

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