Pretoria - Shattered. Heartbroken. Gutted.
This was the reaction of Carl Pistorius, the brother of Oscar Pistorius, on Twitter shortly after receiving the news that the former paralympian’s sentence had been more than doubled.
“Are they serious? That is absolute NONSENSE!”, Carl tweeted.
This devastating news for Oscar came in the same week that Oscar celebrated his 31st birthday (November 22) behind bars in the Atteridgeville Correctional Centre, west of Pretoria.
His six-year jail sentence for murder was on Friday overturned by the Supreme Court of Appeal in Bloemfontein. It was increased to 13 years and five months imprisonment on appeal by the State.
“The sentence of six years imprisonment is shockingly lenient to a point where it has the effect of trivialising this serious offence. The facts of this case demand the imposition of the minimum sentence of 15 years' imprisonment,” Judge Willie Seriti said.
This was a unanimous ruling by all five judges who heard the appeal.
Read more: #OscarPistorius sentence increased
The court, however, took into consideration that Oscar had already spend a 12-month stint in jail on the previous conviction of culpable homicide, which was also replaced by the SCA with murder. The court also considered the seven months on which he was out on correctional supervision and concluded that he should thus now serve 13 years and five months.
If all goes well, Oscar can be released on parole after serving half of his sentence.
Senior Pretoria advocate and acting judge Francois Botes said this new sentence fitted the veracity of the crime. “I always said he should have received about 12 years, but the 15 years he received from the SCA is definitely fitting.”
Judge Botes said Oscar had the perfect opportunity to play open cards with the court before he was last year sentenced to six years by Judge Thokozile Masipa, but he declined to take this opportunity.
The last opportunity open to Oscar to fight his new sentence is the Constitutional Court, but Judge Botes said it was doubtful he would succeed here.
Reeva’s Steenkamp’s parents June and Barry Steenkamp, through their lawyer Tania Koen, said they feel justice had prevailed. “Their trust in the justice system had been reaffirmed. But whatever sentence he gets makes no difference as it will not bring Reeva back. They miss her every day of their lives.”
While belated birthday wishes were still pouring in on Twitter for Oscar, his fans were clearly angered by his new sentence. Some called it an injustice, while others said he did not deserve this as he had suffered too much.
Responding to Carl’s tweet that he was shattered, someone said “I am pretty sure it is the same as Reeva’s parents are feeling”. Carl, in response, said “Reeva’s death was and still is a great loss for our family too".
Judge Seriti said in his judgment that it was difficult to accept that Oscar was genuinely remorseful for killing Reeva. “He failed to explain why he fired the fatal shots. He failed to take the court fully into his confidence. To my mind the attempt by the respondent (Oscar) to apologise to the deceased’s family does not demonstrate any genuine remorse on his part.”
The judge said Oscar, before being sentenced for the second time, had the opportunity to play open cards, yet he didn't.
“It is clear that he is unable to appreciate the crime he has committed. He does not appreciate the gravity of his actions.”
Judge Seriti pointed out that before Judge Masipa resentenced Oscar to six years for murder, the State called witnesses to give evidence in aggravation of sentence. Oscar, however, chose not to testify in mitigation of sentence.
“This, while the SCA said one really does not know what his explanation is for having fired the fatal shots,” Judge Seriti said.
This was despite the fact that Oscar was warned that he could face 15 years in jail if no mitigating factors were found to be present.
Judge Masipa, however, did find mitigating factors, such as that Oscar did believe there was an intruder in his house and that he was vulnerable without his prosthetics. She noted at the time that Oscar tried to ask Reeva’s parents for their forgiveness. This, she said, demonstrated that he was genuinely remorseful for what he had done.
But Judge Seriti was of the opinion that Judge Masipa over-emphasised Oscar’s personal circumstances when she sentenced him. He said she seemed to have given rehabilitation undue weight, as against the other purposes of punishment of prevention, deterrence and retribution.