How the judge reasoned to reach her sentence

2014-10-22 00:00

THE focus Oscar Pistorius’s defence placed on his vulnerability had made Judge Thokozile Masipa “uncomfortable”, she said during the sentencing yesterday.

“He does have coping mechanisms. Thanks to his mother he never saw himself as disabled,” she said.

Masipa earlier found Pistorius guilty of culpable homicide and being grossly negligent in causing the death of his girldfriend Reeva Steenkamp.

When she discussed the seriousness of his crime, she stressed again that Pistorius knew there was a human beind the closed toilet door through which he had shot four times and that he had pulled the trigger to kill that human.

She said the toilet is a small space and there was no room to escape.

It is also relevant that the accused was trained in the use of firearms. These facts aggravated the negligence of his shooting, she said.

Annette Vergeer, a social worker and probation officer who testified for the defence, had pointed out that prisons were not suitable for Pistorius. Masipa rejected Vergeer’s testimony.

She said Vergeer had not impressed her as a witness after she used “old information” about the prisons, which damaged her credibility. Masipa said this was even more disappointing considering Vergeer had 28 years’ experience.

Compared to Vergeer, the acting national commissionar for the Department of Correctional Services Zach Modise had made a very good impression on Masipa.

“He did not testify that the prisons were perfect, but progressive and professional. I accept his evidence without hesitancy as reliable.”

Masipa said Pistorius will not be the first disabled prisoner or the first prisoner with psychiatric needs.

She said she was satisfied the Department of Correctional Services is equipped to handle prisoners with special needs.

The judge added she could not think of any reason why the accused’s needs should create a challenge for the department that it could not overcome.

About the public interest in the sentencing, Masipa said society could not always get the sentence it wants, adding the court did not aim to win any popularity contest.

Judge Masipa said what the general public may often see as justice was quite likely an injustice. “The general public do not know the difference between punishment and revenge,” she said.

In the same breath she said everyone was equal before the law.

“It would be a sad day … if the impression is created that one law counts for the poor and another for the rich and famous.”

Apart from the five years in prison, Masipa also gave Pistorius three years for his neglegent handling of a firearm, but she suspended this sentence by five years.

This sentence means he no longer has the right to own firearms, which he will have to hand over to the state.

Join the conversation! encourages commentary submitted via MyNews24. Contributions of 200 words or more will be considered for publication.

We reserve editorial discretion to decide what will be published.
Read our comments policy for guidelines on contributions. publishes all comments posted on articles provided that they adhere to our Comments Policy. Should you wish to report a comment for editorial review, please do so by clicking the 'Report Comment' button to the right of each comment.

Comment on this story
Comments have been closed for this article.

Inside News24

Traffic Alerts
There are new stories on the homepage. Click here to see them.


Create Profile

Creating your profile will enable you to submit photos and stories to get published on News24.

Please provide a username for your profile page:

This username must be unique, cannot be edited and will be used in the URL to your profile page across the entire network.


Location Settings

News24 allows you to edit the display of certain components based on a location. If you wish to personalise the page based on your preferences, please select a location for each component and click "Submit" in order for the changes to take affect.

Facebook Sign-In

Hi News addict,

Join the News24 Community to be involved in breaking the news.

Log in with Facebook to comment and personalise news, weather and listings.