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Wed May 25 05:23:06 SAST 2016

Blade Runner throws a wobbly

Graeme Hosken | 11 December, 2014 00:39
Masipa ruled against the state's application to appeal both Pistorius's sentence and his acquittal on charges of illegal possession of ammunition. File photo
Image by: STRINGER / REUTERS

Oscar Pistorius lost his cool in prison yesterday after learning that his acquittal for murder will be appealed, with a very real threat of 15 years' imprisonment now hanging over his head.

On top of this it is highly unlikely, according to a criminal law expert, that the Blade Runner will be released into house arrest in August as expected.

A prisoner at Pretoria's Kgosi Mampuru II prison, where Pistorius is imprisoned, said the athlete "lost it" yesterday.

"He was listening to it [Judge Thokozile Masipa's ruling] on the radio. He got up and stomped. He went straight to the gym. He started lifting weights like it was going out of fashion. He is p***ed off.

"Who wouldn't be? He was definitely expecting to be out by August."

In October Pistorius was sentenced to five years in prison for the negligent killing of his girlfriend, Reeva Steenkamp. He has to serve a sixth of the sentence [10 months] before prison officials consider converting the rest to house arrest.

Prosecutors won a major victory yesterday when Judge Masipa ruled that her acquittal of Pistorius for Steenkamp's murder could be appealed.

In the Pretoria High Court, Masipa granted the state's request to refer to the Supreme Court of Appeal three questions of law:

  • Were the principles of dolus eventualis applied correctly to the accepted facts and Pistorius's conduct?
  • Did Masipa correctly apply the legal principles pertaining to circumstantial evidence about the multiple defences Pistorius provided?
  • Was Masipa correct in her reliance on Pistorius's alternative version of events and was this version reasonably possibly true?

Masipa ruled against the state's application to appeal both Pistorius's sentence and his acquittal on charges of illegal possession of ammunition.

If the appeal on his conviction is successful it will be converted from culpable homicide to murder, which carries a minimum sentence of 15 years' imprisonment.

"Pistorius can barely console himself over the fact that he will be here for Christmas and New Year, instead of jolling with his family and friends," said the prisoner at Kgosi Mampuru II.

"It's about time he realised that this is the real world of crime."

Criminal law expert Martin Hood said it was highly unlikely Pistorius would be released by August.

Hood said Masipa continued to be full of surprises. "It is a good ruling because finally we will have some sort of certainty, which will hopefully restore public confidence in the criminal justice system.

"The Supreme Court of Appeal will have access to the entire court record and can review any irregularities," he said.

The time frame for the appeal depended on whether it was fast-tracked. "If not, it could take a year," Hood said.

Reeva's uncle, Mike Steenkamp, said: "Whatever happens is in the Lord's hands. We believe this is part of a bigger process and is heading in the direction that it should have, and [we] trust the justice system.

"We hold no animosity and are neither overjoyed nor celebrating. As a family, we are taking it day by day," he said. Pistorius's father, Henke, the only family member to attend yesterday's proceedings, said the family had adopted a "wait-and-see" attitude.

"We need everything to be finalised first. It's all up in the air."

National Prosecuting Authority spokesman Nathi Mncube welcomed Masipa's decision: "It's what we wanted all along. The issues we want clarified by the Supreme Court of Appeal are issues of law. This is not about winning or losing. It's about justice."

He said the prosecution's argument had all along been that the conviction should have been one of murder. "If a murder conviction is now successful, the court will have to consider an appropriate sentence - 15 years."

On Masipa's refusal to grant leave to appeal the sentence or Pistorius's acquittal on possession of ammunition, Mncube said prosecutors were considering launching a petition.

Warning that appeals could take time, Mncube said: "A speedy process is in the interest of everyone, especially Pistorius. We will not, however, pressure the court."

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