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Restorative justice for Oscar?

The NPA announced that it intended to appeal against Oscar Pistorius's conviction of culpable homicide following the death of Reeva Steenkamp last year, as well as his sentence.

The NPA announced that it intended to appeal against Oscar Pistorius's conviction of culpable homicide following the death of Reeva Steenkamp last year, as well as his sentence.

Published Oct 21, 2014

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Pretoria - Oscar Pistorius, 27, will on Tuesday finish the home straight in the most important race of his life.

It may end with him being given a lifeline by serving a sentence outside jail, or he will face the harsh reality of spending the next few years in a prison cell, but the only certainty is there is no winner in this tragedy.

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The prosecution has called for a sentence of at least 10 years in jail, while the defence feels that in the spirit of ubuntu, correctional supervision – house arrest, community service and attending life skills courses – is the best suited sentence.

Mike Batley, an expert on restorative justice, believes a non-custodial sentence could serve to heal wounds.

“Sentencing is traditionally guided by retribution, prevention, deterrence and reformation, while taking into account the seriousness of the offence, the interests of the community and the offender.

“Retribution – punishment – is generally our instinctive reaction. But this foundation has proved in the past to be ineffective and inadequate, said Batley.

”The persistent high levels of crime and rates of reoffending point to this. By itself, punishment does not address the needs of victims, whose voice and the harm they have suffered does not feature in these aims.”

Batley said the SA Law Commission (SALC) earlier recommended these aims be replaced by a different set of aims, including “restoring the rights of the victim, the protection of society and a crime-free life for the offender”.

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The SALC envisaged that the seriousness of the offence, and degree of harm; and culpability of the offender be considered.

“These aims are best approached using restorative justice which justice focuses on repairing the harm of a crime, its relational and moral dimensions and how to help offenders accept responsibility in tangible, constructive ways.”

Batley said while there were concerns that restorative justice allowed the offender to get off lightly, that it was a softer approach to crime, or was too time consuming, it did address the root causes of a crime and looked at the needs of all parties.

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“Research indicates it is effective in reducing re-offending. We need to recognise our pre-occupation with punishment and its limitations. It is not the only way to ensure a person accepts the consequences of his actions or denounce a wrongful, tragic act.”

A restorative approach to crafting a suitable sentence for Pistorius could result in Reeva Steenkamp’s parents possibly meeting him. He could also make amends, which could be integrated into the sentence.

“Perhaps one positive element from this tragedy is to think more creatively and constructively about sentencing.”

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Pretoria News

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