Pretoria - The Supreme Court of Appeal (SCA) is all geared up to hear legal arguments in the State’s appeal against Oscar Pistorius’ six-year jail sentence.
The streets leading to the historic court building were on Thursday lined with posters announcing that the appeal would be heard on Friday.
While there were TV trucks in December 2015, on the eve of the State’s appeal against Pistorius’s conviction on culpable homicide, the media hype seemed to have worn off a bit. By late Thursday, only a lone media truck was parked outside the building.
It was, however, expected that members of the ANC Women’s League would support the parents of Reeva Steenkamp, who was killed by Pistorius on Valentine's Day in 2013.
The parents of the blonde model, June and Barry Steenkamp, earlier said they were set on attending Friday’s proceedings. The ANCYL also vowed to be in court.
This will be the second time that the parties head to the SCA after the prosecution felt aggrieved by the verdict of Judge Thokozile Masipa after Pistorius's trial in the high court in Pretoria.
The first time was to overturn the judge’s verdict of culpable homicide. The State succeeded in that appeal when the SCA replaced it with a verdict of murder and referred it back to the trial court for sentencing.
Judge Masipa sentenced Pistorius for a second time and in July last year, he started to serve his six-year jail term.
The State was set on appealing what it called a shockingly lenient sentence. The prosecution will argue that Judge Masipa had “undue sympathy” for Pistorius.
The sentence, according to the State, was not only shockingly lenient but also “startlingly” and “disturbingly inappropriate”.
Pistorius, who is serving his jail term in the Atteridgeville Correctional Centre, west of Pretoria, shot Steenkamp four times in the early hours of the morning while she was behind the door of the toilet in his then Silver Oaks home, east of Pretoria.
He maintained throughout his high-profile trial that he mistook her for intruders in his house. He said he was terrified and did everything in his might to protect himself and Steenkamp from the “intruders".
The prosecution team have listed more than 30 points why they believed that the judge misdirected herself when she re-sentenced him.
“The sentence of six years’ imprisonment does not adequately reflect the seriousness of the crime of murder and the natural indignation and outrage of the public...
“It is shockingly lenient and has accordingly resulted in an injustice and has the potential to bring the administration of justice into disrepute,” the prosecution stated in their written submission to the SCA.
Advocate Andrea Johnson, who will on Friday lead the State’s team after Advocate Gerrie Nel left the National Prosecuting Authority, said in her written submissions to the SCA that “this court could reasonably arrive at a different conclusion on sentence, given that the sentence is shockingly, startlingly and disturbingly inappropriate or too lenient
“The prospects of success on appeal is therefore not remote, but have a realistic chance of succeeding.”
Pistorius’s advocate, Barry Roux, stated in the opposing papers that the appeal proceedings were hanging like a sword over the Paralympian’s head.
“On July 6, 2016, he returned to prison to commence the six-year sentence. Then the State applied for leave to appeal. Since then the respondent had to await the outcome of the present proceedings, further prolonging the agony caused by uncertainty,” Roux stated.
He will submit that the State had no regard for the fact Pistorius had already spent 12 months in jail when he was previously convicted of culpable homicide.
The disgraced athlete was under correctional supervision for seven months after his release. Pending his re-sentencing, he was placed under even stricter bail conditions, which included house arrest. The defence said although the judge took this into account, it appears that the State has “conveniently” omitted considering these facts.
It was further stated: “If regard is had to the fact that subject to good behaviour an accused would usually be released on parole after serving about 60% of his sentence, the previous sentence period served, as well as the correctional supervision, constitute about a two-year effective imprisonment sentence already served by the accused.”
The defence is of the opinion that this makes the present sentence an effective eight-year sentence, which it said is anything but lenient.
The legal arguments are expected to last until about lunchtime, after which judgment will be reserved.