"A fallen hero": The Sentencing of Oscar Pistorius

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Kettlemag Oscar Pistorius sentencing
Flickr Global Panorama Jim Thurston
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In February 2013, Oscar Pistorius shot his girlfriend, Reeva Steenkamp, four times through his locked bathroom door. Three years on and two trials later, the case is finally closed.

Events

At 4 a.m. on the 14th of February 2013, the six-time Paralympic gold medallist made a frantic phone call to the emergency services. Claiming to have mistaken Steenkamp for an intruder, Pistorius shot the South African model as she locked herself in his bathroom.

A lengthy high profile trial commenced in March 2014, with international media coverage that brought issues of gender equality and social status to the forefront of the investigation. Under scrutiny from the rest of the world, Pistorius was forced to publicly delve into every aspect of his private life. Hunched over on the witness stand and sobbing uncontrollably, as he read texts, emails and birthday cards sent between him and his girlfriend in the months leading up to that night.

In September 2014, the athlete formerly dubbed Blade Runner was found guilty of culpable homicide (our equivalent of manslaughter) and was sentenced to five years in prison. After serving just ten months imprisonment, Pistorius was released and transferred to house arrest.

However, December 2015 the Appeal court changed the verdict to murder. Pistorius once again stood trial answering allegations of domestic abuse, violence, and insanity. Most notably, Pistorius was seen walking on his stumps in an attempt to show the fear and anguish caused by his disability.

On the 6th July 2016, the Judge sentenced Oscar Pistorius to six years imprisonment.

(Image source: Flickr)

The Sentence

The sentence was undoubtedly much lower than many people had expected, with public prosecutors demanding the minimum fifteen-year sentence. After all, the new sentence is merely an extra year on his previous one. Furthermore, according to Andrew Fawcett, the instructing attorney for the defence, Pistorius will serve “between half and two-thirds of the sentence” before he can apply for parole. For many, this is deemed inadequate.

However, in Judge Thokozile Masipa’s closing statement, she identified that there were “substantial and compelling circumstances” that meant that he should not serve the minimum fifteen-year sentence for murder.

Stating her belief that he was genuinely remorseful, Judge Masipa outlined both the mitigating and aggravating factors before concluding that the former significantly “outweighed” the latter.

"The life of the accused will never be the same. he was a fallen hero, who has lost his career, and been ruined financially. He cannot be at peace."

(Image source: Flickr)

“Our courts are courts of law, not courts of public opinion”

The true impact of the media is brought to light in this case, as Judge Masipa explicitly stated that it was the court’s duty to correct the public’s misperception that Pistorius intentionally murdered his girlfriend. It was, she claimed, the court’s duty to prevent the “unjustified outrage from the public”.

The “unjustified outrage” referred to by the Judge appears to surround accusations of preferential treatment based on his race, gender and celebrity status. Despite Judge Masipa stating that “there was no indication at all that the deceased was in an abusive relationship”, and upholding his defence that he blieved there was an intruder in his bathroom, many believe that Pistorius was a abusive boyfriend who killed Steenkamp in a violent rage. As Jacqui Mofokeng of the African National Congress reportedly told the BBC, “The judgement is an insult to women. It sends the wrong message.”

This was certainly reflected on Twitter as thousands turn to social media to express their frustration, and many suggested that such treatment is sending the wrong message out to potential offenders:

There is however, one silver lining in South Africa, as the the spokesperson for the Pistorius family, Anneliese Burgess, announced after Pistorius was taken down to the cells:

“To a certain extent there was a relief that this is the last chapter”

As Pistorius begins his six year sentence, it is indeed the closing chapter for us, however, it is something that Oscar Pistorius will, quite rightly, have to live with for the rest of his life. 

What do you think of the sentencing? Have your say in the comments below.

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I'm a writer, thinker, and minder of plenty of things that are none of my business - but if journalism is good, then controversy is even better! I'm an English Literature student at the University of Bristol. Living in Morocco, nothing interests me more than culture, society and tradition. I have an immense passion for adventure... so I thought I might give this one a go!