Society wants harsh punishment: Nel


People will take the law into their own hands if killers get sentences like house arrest and community service, the High Court in Pretoria heard on Wednesday.

"Society will lose trust in the judiciary. They will take the law into their own hands," prosecutor Gerrie Nel told social worker and parole officer Annette Vergeer during sentencing proceedings for paralympian Oscar Pistorius.

He was cross-examining her on her report on Pistorius, which she presented for the defence during proceedings.

Pistorius was found guilty last month of the culpable homicide of Reeva Steenkamp, his girlfriend.

In Vergeer's report, which the defence had paid her to compile, she recommended that the paralympic athlete get three years of correctional supervision and 16 hours of community service a month for killing Steenkamp.

"Would you agree with me, madam, that society demands that if you kill someone there should be a harsh punishment?"

Vergeer paused before answering.

"I cannot dispute that, but you have to look at the circumstances, at the accused in totality."

Nel propped his foot on his chair and draped his robe over his leg.

"The accused armed himself, walked to a bathroom, shot four times, caused a horrible death. Don't you think society would want to punish him?" Nel asked Vergeer.

"I don't think it's in the hands of society to punish him," she said.

"It's totally inappropriate, it cannot be considered," Nel said of her recommended sentence.

As he spoke Barry Roux, for Pistorius, leaned back in his chair and whispered briefly to his junior counsel sitting on either side of him.

Nel rejected Vergeer's suggestion that Pistorius be made to work with disabled children as a punishment.

"For correctional supervision to be a sentence at all the person should be taken out of their comfort zone and not be doing what they have been doing all along," Nel said.

"He can also work at a police station," Vergeer offered.

On September 12 Judge Thokozile Masipa found Pistorius guilty of the culpable homicide of model and law graduate Steenkamp, but not guilty of her murder. Pistorius had claimed he thought there was a burglar in his toilet when he fired four shots through the locked door in the early hours of February 14 last year, killing Steenkamp. The State had argued he killed her during an argument.

Masipa found Pistorius guilty of discharging a firearm in public, when he shot from his friend Darren Fresco's Glock pistol under a table at Tasha's restaurant in Melrose Arch, Johannesburg, in January 2013.

Pistorius was found not guilty on two firearms-related charges -- illegal possession of ammunition, and shooting through the open sunroof of a car with his 9mm pistol while driving with friends in Modderfontein on September 30, 2012.


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