Oscar Pistorius. File photo: INLSA
Johannesburg - Oscar Pistorius will now turn to the Constitutional Court as his final chance to try and get out of the 15-year jail sentence meted out to him by the Supreme Court of Appeal in Bloemfontein.

His lawyer filed papers with the Constitutional Court on Monday, in which he is petitioning the highest court in the country for permission to appeal against the 15-year sentence.

Lawyer Shawn van Heerden said in an affidavit that Oscar is of the opinion that the SCA judgment ignored material factual findings of the trial court - headed by Judge Thokozile Masipa - which found there to be mitigating circumstances justifying a departure from the prescribed minimum sentence of 15 years for murder.

Oscar feels that the sentence is not permissible and in breach of his constitutional right to a fair trial, which includes the sentencing phase. 

Van Heerden said he is aware that the Constitutional Court did not usually grant leave to appeal against sentence unless the appeal raised raises fair trial issues that may result in the failure of justice. 

“However, as this application  reveals,  this is precisely what  has occurred in this case.”

He said in ignoring the findings of Judge Masipa that there were indeed substantial and compelling circumstances to warrant a lesser sentence than 15 years, the SCA trampled on Oscar’s constitutional rights, which in turn resulted in a failure of justice.

Van Heerden will first apply to the Constitutional Court for condonation for the late filing of the appeal proceedings. In terms of the law, the application had to reach the court by December 15.

Van Heerden said there were a number of technical and practical glitches, which caused it to be filed out of time. This included that management at the Atteridgeville Prison where Oscar is held only granted him permission to see Oscar on December 13, to sign the documents.

The clerk who had to first serve the papers on the office of the Director of Public Prosecutions in Pretoria, experienced a number of travel problems. This also caused the papers to be served late.

But van Heerden said if one weighed up the prejudice, Oscar stood to lose the most if the court did not allow his slightly late application, as he would be deprived of his opportunity to “ventilate appealable issues in relation to his sentence.”

He said Oscar was confident that he had a very good case to fight.

Oscar’s six-year jail sentence for murdering his girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp was last month overturned by the SCA and increased to 15 years  following an application by the prosecution that it was too lenient.

Pretoria News