Why Pistorius must have his freedom

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iol news pic Oscar gets bail SAPA Murder accused Oscar Pistorius is seen inside the Pretoria Magistrate's Court. File photo: Werner Beukes/SAPA

The State’s version of the brutality of events leading to the death of Reeva Steenkamp has made it challenging for some to come to terms with the idea that Oscar Pistorius was granted bail.

For these people, what happened in Pretoria Magistrate’s Court last Friday was a great travesty.

But just because the law does not listen to our emotions does not mean it is wrong.

The law must consider the facts and it must be just to all, even people we do not like.

This is specifically to ensure that if you, too, one day face the law, you are not treated differently because you are unlikeable. The facts dictated that Pistorius be granted bail.

As much as our emotions may rebel against the decision, Pistorius deserved bail according to the magistrate. And rightly so.

No matter how indignant people may feel about Pistorius’s limited freedom, the law is still the law and must be observed as stated by our constitution in the Bill of Rights, which asserts the following about the rights of accused individuals: “To be presumed innocent, to remain silent, and not to testify during the proceedings; to adduce and challenge evidence; not to be compelled to give self-incriminating evidence”.

It is important to remember that Pistorius is innocent until proven guilty of the crime which he is accused of committing – the intentional and premeditated murder of Steenkamp at his home in the early hours of Valentine’s Day.

When granting bail, magistrate Desmond Nair made it clear that he believed the state had a strong case and found Pistorious’s version of events difficult to comprehend.

It is important to understand that he was not saying Pistorius was innocent; he just believed there was a case he needed to answer.

Neither did he say he found him guilty.

It was merely a bail hearing, although there was nothing “merely” about the circumstances of the hearing.

When Nair finally said what we’d seen coming while he read his decision (thanks to the legal crumbs he kept throwing from the table of justice), a loud “yes!” rang out in the courtroom.

I could not possibly imagine what the Steenkamp family felt at that moment.

I simply couldn’t.

It is impossible for any of us because we never want to be in a position like that.

The life of a daughter, a cousin and a sister had been cut short under circumstances still to be decided, as there are two versions – one from Pistorius and the other from the state.

We know it happened – no one disputes it – but the “why” is yet to be established.

The Pistorius family are going through their own drama. There have been revelations that Oscar’s brother, Carl, faces a charge of culpable homicide after allegedly causing the death of a female biker while he was driving.

In Pistorius’s case, for the law to operate well it has to operate within the bounds of doubt. The questions raised by his version of events on the night Steenkamp died leave a lot of room for doubt, as Nair pointed out.

The Star

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