What does Masipa’s ruling mean for Oscar?

2014-12-10 13:17
(File: AFP)

(File: AFP)

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Cape Town - Judge Thokozile Masipa has ruled that prosecutors can appeal Oscar Pistorius’s conviction, but not his sentence.

Masipa told the North Gauteng High Court on Wednesday: "In the result in respect of the application... the following order is granted. One, the application for leave to appeal against sentence is dismissed.”

However, on the application against his conviction, she said: "I am satisfied that the points raised by the applicant [the State] are indeed a question of law."

What does this mean for Pistorius?

Pistorius could now be found guilty of murder

Masipa convicted Pistorius for the culpable homicide of his girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp, but not for her murder.

Now that prosecutors are allowed to appeal that conviction, the case is to go to the Supreme Court of Appeal in Bloemfontein.

At the Supreme Court, up to five judges will look at the evidence presented during Pistorius’s trial and if they decide that Masipa has made an error in her ruling, they can impose the correct conviction, according to Advocate Mannie Witz of The Bridge law firm.

But he won’t take the stand again

Witz told News24: “There will be no more cross-examination or sick buckets”.

Prosecutor Gerrie Nel and defence advocate Barry Roux will be given around six weeks to prepare their “heads of argument”, which they will then present to the judges.

These judges will not be named, and will be taken from a pool of Supreme Court judges, which according to Witz contains a “wide variety” of personalities.

Pistorius himself will not be called on for evidence.

Judgment day won’t be for at least a year

It usually takes between a year and eighteen months for a case to reach the Supreme

Court, said Witz.

During that time, there is a chance that Pistorius could be released under house arrest.

According to section 276 of the Criminal Procedure Act, one-sixth of a jail sentence can be converted to house arrest if the sentence is not more than five years.

This means Pistorius could spend only 10 months in prison – and, therefore, could be out of prison before the appeal reaches the Supreme Court.

He could still face a longer sentence

That said, Pistorius could find himself returning to prison.

Though Masipa dismissed the appeal against Pistorius’s sentencing, Witz expects the prosecution to file a petition against this ruling - which opens up the possibility of a heavier sentence for Pistorius.

Pistorius was sentenced to five years in jail for culpable homicide and a further three years, suspended for five years, for discharging a firearm at Tasha’s restaurant in Sandton, Johannesburg, in January 2013.

Witz told News24 that the prosecution has 21 days to file a petition against both sentences.

If this is successful, and Pistorius is convicted of murder, he could face a sentencing of between 15 and 20 years.

Justice prevails

The media circus surrounding the Pistorius trial has gripped the nation and thrown the South African justice system under the global spotlight, inviting fierce debate from legal experts at home and abroad.

Nel said on Tuesday argued that the sentence imposed on Pistorius was "shockingly inappropriate".

While Roux, for Pistorius, said the law was correctly applied in convicting and sentencing.

For Witz, Wednesday’s ruling proves the strength of South Africa’s system in the face of deep scrutiny from the public and media alike.

He said: “It shows we have got a very strong, independent system of justice.”

Read more on:    gerrie nel  |  oscar pistorius  |  barry roux  |  thokozile masipa  |  pretoria  |  pistorius trial  |  crime

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