A look at SA's justice system

2013-02-21 22:31
(Picture: <a href=\http://www.shutterstock.com\>Shutterstock</a>)

(Picture: Shutterstock)

Multimedia   ·   User Galleries   ·   News in Pictures Send us your pictures  ·  Send us your stories

Pretoria - A look at the justice system in South Africa and what Oscar Pistorius faces after the double-amputee Olympic athlete was charged with premeditated murder in the 14 February shooting death of his girlfriend, Reeva Steenkamp:


The bail hearing in the Pistorius case represents a mini-trial to determine if he will remain in custody until a trial or can be freed with conditions.

Defence lawyers offered written statements from the athlete and his friends to state their case.

By offering the affidavits, the defence was able to enter the evidence without having to put their emotional client, who has broken down weeping a number of times in court, on the stand.

Prosecutors offered their own version of events and called the lead police investigator, Detective Warrant Officer Hilton Botha, to give testimony.

But by putting Botha on the stand, they opened him up to detailed cross-examination by Pistorius' lead defence lawyer, Barry Roux.

Botha has since been dropped from the case.


Pistorius faces the harshest bail requirements in South African law after the judge agreed with the prosecution's premeditated murder charge for the purposes of bail.

Pistorius's lawyers must prove there is an "exceptional" reason to have him freed before trial.

They also have to show that he doesn't represent a flight risk, that he will not intimidate witnesses and that he won't commit acts of violence or encourage others to do so.

If Chief Magistrate Desmond Nair decides Pistorius might violate any of those terms, he can order him held until trial. If bail is denied, Pistorius can immediately appeal to a higher court.

Pistorius is currently being held in Pretoria's Brooklyn police station, but those denied bail typically go to a prison.


South Africa is one of just a few countries in the world that that has a court system that takes root in Roman-Dutch law.

Because of this, those appearing in criminal trials do not have the option of a jury trial, which is common in the United States and other countries.

Instead, a single judge will hear the entire case and then rule on a person's guilt or innocence.

The judge can be assisted by two advisers during the trial.

Those advisers generally offer assistance in looking at the more technical aspects of the evidence given at trial. If found guilty, a person can later appeal the ruling or the sentence they receive.


Premeditated murder, which Pistorius is charged with, can carry a sentence of life in prison.

A lesser murder charge carries a sentence of 15 years to life.

Pistorius could still see his charge downgraded to culpable homicide, meaning that he unintentionally killed Steenkamp, which is what he claims.

A conviction on that charge carries much less time in prison.

Visit News24's Oscar Pistorius Special Report.

Join the conversation!

24.com 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.

24.com 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

Competition regulation for a growing and inclusive economy

ADVERTORIAL: The Competition Commission of South Africa is conducting advocacy work in the South African automotive aftermarket industry and has gazetted a Draft Code of Conduct for public comment.

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 24.com 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.