The Oscar Pistorius sentence: no justice for Reeva by @lexiconlane


(Cross-posted from Donna Navarro)
Oscar Pistorius SentenceThe headline reads: ‘Pistorius sentenced to five years in prison’

What a misleading headline. Aren’t they always.

Oscar Pistorius has today received his sentence for the culpable homicide (manslaughter) of Reeva Steenkamp. Judge Thokozile Matilda Masipa has imposed a five year custodial sentence for the manslaughter of Reeva and three years suspended for the firearms offences. Under South African law, what that actually means is that Pistorius will serve one sixth of his custodial sentence in prison before being released to serve the remaining term on house arrest.

So, that’s about ten months in prison for shooting Reeva and killing her. No where near five years in prison.

I understand his ten months will be served in the hospital wing of the prison due to Pistorius’ disability. If housed on the main wing of the prison we are told he will be at risk of daily rape.

My issue is that Pistorius shot his firearm four times. Not once. Four times.  I don’t believe it was a negligent act or amounted to manslaughter but the judge has made her decision.

A ten month term in prison is not enough for shooting four times at Reeva Steenkamp.

Comparative cases indicate the sentence is reasonable for the South African justice system. Other cases where a longer prison sentence has been imposed have involved more deaths.

Apparently the prosecution find some solace in the fact a custodial sentence has been imposed. Reeva Steenkamp’s parents have also said they are satisfied and feel there is some closure for them now. I have a lot of respect for their reaction to the sentence. I couldn’t display the same level of composure.

It’s believed Pistorius will go to the Kgosi Mampuru jail in Pretoria (formerly the Central Pretoria prison) which has a hospital wing that will provide a safer environment for him. He’ll have a single cell and then be released on house arrest. Even the length of house arrest may be reduced for good behaviour.

House arrest seems to be the South African justice system’s equivalent of the UK’s being released on licence. On release, Pistorius will have to be at a pre-approved address between set hours each day. According to the Department of Correctional Services for the Republic of South Africa this involves:

House arrest refers to that portion of the day/night when the probationer does not work and is compelled to be at home. The period of house arrest of individual probationers may differ.

The possible risk posed to the community is taken into account when determining the probationer’s placement under house arrest. When the condition of house arrest is being set, the offender’s working hours are taken into account in order to avoid conflict between such hours and the period of house arrest. Flexibility is also built into the condition of house arrest to allow probationers to participate in organized sport activities, to attend church services, to do the necessary shopping, etc.

It sounds like it won’t be long before Pistorius will be free to carry on his life with some sense of normality. After ten months it sounds like he will be free to return to sport, provided he is back in his home by a certain time on an evening.

In the UK we can release offenders with a licence condition of a curfew. House arrest seems similar to that. I’ve worked with offenders who have received this condition. It allows them to return to work, to move freely during the day provided they are back at the approved address by the required time. If they breach this they will be returned to prison. I assume it works the same in South Africa.

I still can’t believe that if you think there is an intruder in your house you don’t first check it’s not your partner. That you don’t first check that they are not lying there next to you.

But, like I said, the judge has made her decision.

Her decision, the Oscar Pistorius sentence is not justice for Reeva.


Donna Navarro : Writer, campaigner, former offender manager; passionate about social justice, criminal justice, feminism and freedom from male violence against women. Opinionated. Sarcastic. More fun than I sound. @lexiconlane |