National 26.8.2016 08:23 am

State requests permission to appeal Oscar’s jail term

A file picture dated 19 August 2013 shows South African Paralympic athlete Oscar Pistorius as he appears in the Pretoria Magistrates court in Pretoria, South Africa. Pistorius was found guilty of culpable homicide of his girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp on 12 September 2014. The sentence is expected to be announced on 21 October.  EPA/STR

A file picture dated 19 August 2013 shows South African Paralympic athlete Oscar Pistorius as he appears in the Pretoria Magistrates court in Pretoria, South Africa. Pistorius was found guilty of culpable homicide of his girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp on 12 September 2014. The sentence is expected to be announced on 21 October. EPA/STR

The state wants a harsher sentence imposed for what it describes as the ‘disturbingly inappropriate’ sentence imposed by Judge Thokozile Masipa.

All eyes will be on the South Gauteng High Court in Johannesburg on Friday, where the state will request leave to appeal against Oscar Pistorius’s six-year sentence for the murder of his girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp.

The State wants a harsher sentence imposed on the 29-year-old Paralympic athlete for the 2013 Valentine’s Day murder of the law graduate and model in Pistorius’ Pretoria home.

Pistorius has maintained that he fired four shots into the locked bathroom door in the mistaken belief that there was an intruder behind it.

Initially, Judge Thokozile Masipa found Pistorius guilty of culpable homicide, but the state successfully appealed the conviction and the fallen athlete was instead found guilty of murder.

Last month, on 6 July, Masipa re-sentenced Pistorius, a double amputee, to six years in prison for murder.

On Friday the state will ask for permission to appeal what it said was a “disturbingly inappropriate” sentence.

In court papers filed by the National Prosecuting Authority, the state said the sentence on a murder charge was “shocking”, “startling” and “disturbingly inappropriate” given the gravity of the crime and the interests of society.

“We respectfully submit that 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,” the court papers read.

“… We respectfully submit that the sentence of six years’ imprisonment, in all the circumstances, is disproportionate to the crime of murder committed in casu, that is to say, shockingly too lenient, and has accordingly resulted in an injustice and has the potential to bring the administration of justice into disrepute.”

Court misdirected itself

In the papers, the state said the grounds for the appeal were that the “court misdirected itself in finding that the aggravating factors in casu are outweighed by the mitigating factors” and presented mitigating and aggravating factors that the court identified.

The aggravating factors included that Pistorius used a lethal weapon; fired not one but four shots into the toilet door; fired the four shots knowing full well that there was someone behind the door; the toilet was a small cubicle and there was no room for escape; Pistorius was trained in the use and handling of firearms; and he never fired a warning shot.

However, the defence will argue against the request to appeal the sentence. The defence contends that the six-year sentence was fair considering that Pistorius had served nearly a year in prison and about eight months under house arrest.

The mitigating factors, according to the court papers, are that Pistorius approached the bathroom in the belief that an intruder had entered his house; was without his prosthesis and felt vulnerable; immediately took steps to save Steenkamp’s life; was distraught and kept on asking God to save Steenkamp’s life; at the commencement of the trial he accused apologised to the Steenkamp family; and was genuinely remorseful.

Background:

The request for leave to appeal comes just 12 days ahead of the Rio 2016 Paralympic Games. The international multi-sport event involving athletes with a range of disabilities thrust Pistorius into the international lime light 12 years ago.

At the Paralympics in Athens, Greece, in 2004, Pistorius won gold in the 200m and set a new world record of 21.97 seconds. In 2006, Pistorius became one of the world’s most well-known disabled athletes when he won gold in the 100, 200 and 400 metres at the Paralympic world championships.

At the 2008 Beijing Paralympics, Pistorius took gold and set world records in the 100, 200 and 400 metres. In 2011, Pistorius made history as the first amputee athlete to compete at the world championships.

In 2012, he competed in the London Olympics and became South Africa’s pride when he made it to the semifinals in the 400 metres. He was part of Team SA for the 4×400 relay, which came eighth in the final. Pistorius carried the South African flag at the closing ceremony.

– African News Agency (ANA)

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