Judge Masipa shows mercy
Johannesburg - "I hope not to be here again.” Those were Barry Steenkamp’s parting words to the media outside the high court in Pretoria after Judge Thokozile Masipa imposed a six-year jail term on Oscar Pistorius for Reeva Steenkamp’s murder.
Pistorius shot and killed his girlfriend on Valentine’s Day in 2013, saying he had mistaken her for an intruder.
Reeva’s grieving father did not have further comment on the outcome of the sentencing on Wednesday, leaving family lawyer Dup de Bruyn to face the media.
“The law has run its course. There is nothing we can do now,” De Bruyn said, adding that they would not be involved if the State wished to lodge an appeal.
Prosecutor Gerrie Nel still has the option of lodging an appeal.
National Prosecuting Authority spokeswoman Bulelwa Makeke said: “The NPA has noted the court’s decision and will consider all options.”
After Judge Masipa sentenced Pistorius, the athlete’s sister Aimee ran from the courtroom in tears. His brother Carl began to cry as the athlete, who dodged the minimum 15-year sentence for murder dolus eventualis, calmly went down to the holding cells.
A source close to the family said that Pistorius’s uncle Arnold was originally going to hold a media briefing after the court proceedings, but that he was too emotional to go through with it.
In a brief statement from Pistorius’s family spokeswoman, Anneliese Burgess, the family accepted the judgment and would respect the legal processes, a similar sentiment expressed by the family after Pistorius’s initial culpable homicide conviction in 2014.
Andrew Fawcett, of Pistorius’s legal team, confirmed there would be no appeal lodged by the defence, saying “Oscar will serve his sentence as handed down by Judge Masipa”.
In a sympathetic ruling, Judge Masipa said she believed that Pistorius was remorseful for his actions, and that a lengthy prison term would not be appropriate, nor would it bring Steenkamp back.
The judge was adamant that the public perception that Pistorius had tried to kill Steenkamp after an argument was entirely incorrect, and that it was up to her to set the record straight.
“There is not a shred of evidence placed before this court that supports such a perception,” she said. The judge added there was no evidence of any abuse between the young couple.
Refusing to be swayed by public opinion, Judge Masipa was also adamant that ignoring Pistorius’s vulnerability as a double amputee would be an injustice.
Believing that such mitigating factors had outweighed those in aggravation, Judge Masipa said she was well within her rights to deviate from the minimum 15-year sentence as dictated by South African law.
She considered the fact that he was a first time offender, that he was unlikely to reoffend and that he had already served 12 months of his previous culpable homicide conviction.
She reiterated there was no evidence that Steenkamp was in an abusive relationship with Pistorius or that her murder could be considered gender-based violence.
Judge Masipa said she believed that he showed signs that he could be rehabilitated.
Legal expert Zola Majavu said in a TV interview that he did not see the sentence coming.
“I was of the view that no compelling and substantial circumstances were proven, but I guess the judge exercised her discretion, and I’m not one to criticise the judge.
“I will be very surprised if the State takes this lying down,” Majavu said. There was no difference between the sentences Judge Masipa gave for both convictions, he added.
“Quite frankly, I do not think the decision was appropriate under these circumstances,” Majavu said.
It is understood that with the current sentence, Pistorius will serve between three and four years before he is eligible for parole.
Pistorius, who looked well rested and groomed on Wednesday, spent the first night of his six-year term in the Kgosi Mampuru II Correctional Centre.