The Supreme Court of Appeal (SCA) has referred the National Prosecuting Authority’s (NPA) bid to appeal against former olympic athlete Oscar Pistorius’ six-year sentence for murdering his girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp for oral argument.
In terms of an order granted by the SCA, the NPA and Pistorius’ legal team must be prepared to address the court on the merits of the NPA’s application.
The NPA was given a month to file additional copies of its application and three months to file the record of Pistorius’ criminal trial with the court, which means the application will only be argued next year.
The SCA also ruled that the NPA would have to pay the legal costs relating to their application, should it not proceed.
Judge Thokozile Masipa in August dismissed the state’s application for leave to appeal against the six-year jail sentence she imposed on Pistorius on July 6 after the SCA overturned Pistorius’ conviction on a charge of culpable homicide and ruled that he must be re-sentenced for murder.
The state wanted to take the case to the SCA, arguing that the sentence was too lenient, resulted in an injustice and had the potential of bringing the administration of justice into disrepute, but Judge Masipa said she did not believe another court would come to a different conclusion.
The NPA thereafter petitioned the SCA for leave to appeal.
Pistorius was initially sentenced to five years imprisonment in terms of Section 276(1)(i) of the Criminal Procedure Act for the Valentine’s day 2013 killing of his girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp, who died after he fired four shots into the locked toilet door behind which she was standing, in the belief that he was shooting at an intruder.
He was released under correctional supervision after serving just under a year of his sentence, but the SCA in December referred his case back to Judge Masipa after finding him guilty of murder, and he was in July sent back to prison for another six years.
The NPA maintained in its previous bid to appeal that the sentence was disproportionate to the crime of murder, had resulted in an injustice and had the potential to bring the administration of justice into disrepute.
They maintained the appeal was necessary to clarify the principles of sentencing, particularly in crime categories for which there were prescribed minimum sentences ordained by legislation, notwithstanding the fact that a judicial officer had a discretion to deviate from the prescribed sentences.
The state argued during the trial that Pistorius had still not accepted responsibility for what he did and asked for a 15-year jail term, but the defence team argued that enough was enough and that our courts should not entertain any further appeals.
Judge Masipa found that there were substantial and compelling reasons to deviate from the prescribed minimum sentence, including the athlete’s claim that he believed he was shooting at an intruder, that he was on his stumps and vulnerable at the time and the public’s incorrect public perception that an argument had preceded the shooting.
The six-year sentence she imposed on Pistorius was widely criticised as shockingly light by certain sections of the legal fraternity as well as members of the public.