Praise and criticism for Masipa’s handling of trial

2014-10-22 00:00

JUDGE Thokozile Masipa yesterday received praise and criticism for her handling of the Oscar Pistorius trial.

Advocate and acting judge Dumisa Ntsebenza said Masipa’s actions strengthened confidence in the judiciary.

He said she remained independent and true to her oath to apply the law without fear or favour.

Her handling of the case had not created any legal precedent, he said.

South Africa’s legal system had enough safety nets in place and if there is a feeling that the judge erred, the parties can appeal to the highest court, added Ntsebenza.

Advocate and acting judge Johann Engelbrecht SC, however, thought Masipa could have handled the court proceedings with a firmer hand.

He said she raised eyebrows with the things she allowed in her court, like a vomit bucket for Pistorius during the proceedings. “It damaged the image of the judiciary,” he said.

He was happy with Masipa’s sentence, saying that was the quality of judgment lawyers wanted to see.

Experienced criminal law attorney Delia de Vries said Masipa’s sentencing had chosen the middle road to silence all the critics.

“If it was not Oscar Pistorius she would have given correctional supervision.

“But both the state and the defence made many errors. Pistorius should have pleaded guilty to culpable homicide from the start,” she said.

Another experienced criminal attorney, André Grobler, said Masipa’s sentence was shockingly out of place and sent totally the wrong message to the public.

“The public thinks they have a licence to shoot. The state has no choice but to appeal,” he said.

Criminal lawyer Willie van der Merwe thought Masipa had put the judiciary in a poor light.

“You cannot find someone guilty of being grossly negligent and that their actions bordered on murder dolus eventualis, but on the other hand decide on a sentence that effectively boils down to 10 months in prison. It is not proper justice,” he said.

Another criminal law attorney, Ren Oosthuizen, said Masipa’s handling of the case should not be seen as reflective of the entire judiciary.

“You get judges and you get judges. That is why we have a higher court to appeal to,” he said.

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