No prescribed sentence for culpable homicide

2014-09-12 00:00

THERE is a chance that, if Oscar Pistorius is found guilty of culpable homicide, he won’t spend a single night in a jail cell.

But there is also the possibility that he would face several years in prison.

Various legal experts explained that culpable homicide is a common law crime. That means that if a court finds that a person is not guilty of murder, but did cause a death by negligence, that person can be found guilty under common law of culpable homicide.

While Judge Thokozile Masipa has not yet found Pistorius guilty on any count, she did say he is not guilty of murder.

She said yesterday that Pistorius was certainly negligent — a strong indication that she could find him guilty of culpable homicide.

She will then discuss his degree of negligence.

Legal experts said there is no prescribed sentence for homicide.

The sentence can range from one that is wholly suspended, to a fine, correctional supervision or a prison term, they said.

The longest sentence for culpable homicide recalled by one advocate was the eight years taxi driver Jacob Humphreys got from the Supreme Court of Appeal on 10 counts.

He overtook several vehicles and crashed his taxi full of schoolchildren into a train in 2010.

Another lawyer said that during sentencing, the court would take into account the nature of the crime, the accused’s personal circumstances and the interests of the community.

There is also the chance that along with a suspended sentence, an accused could be instructed to pay a sum to the victim’s family, if she was their means of support.

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