Jail term given to Oscar Pistorius is plainly inadequate

Morning View
Morning View

The Oscar Pistorius legal saga has been a miserable affair, that took another depressing turn yesterday.

In February 2013, months after winning silver in the London Paralympic Games, he shot dead his girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp at his home in South Africa.

State prosecutors swiftly concluded that they wanted to press pre-meditated murder charges.

But everything went dowhill from a legal perspective thereafter.

After tears and melodrama during the trial, Pistorius was found not guilty of murder but convicted of culpable homicide, which is the equivalent of manslaughter in British law.

In October, the judge in the case, Thokozile Masipa, gave him a five-year prison sentence for the killing.

There was a glimmer of hope a year later that this leniency would be rectified when South African prosecutors announced that they were appealing the verdict. Last December the Supreme Court of Appeal replaced the culpable homicide conviction with murder.

But last month sentencing returned to the same inept judge who had presided over the first trial, Judge Masipa. She barely increased his five-year sentence, edging it up to six.

Now Judge Masipa has dismissed an appeal by prosecutors for a harsher sentence. They had said the sentence was “shockingly light” and the judge should have used a 15-year minimum as a starting point as Ms Steenkamp had suffered a “horrendous death”.

But Judge Masipa yesterday was “not persuaded that there are reasonable prospects of success for an appeal” against her own sentence.

It is said that the state is undecided whether to appeal against Judge Masipa’s decision at the Supreme Court of Appeals. It is very much to be hoped that they do and that South Africa has a chance to show that it is still a country with a robust legal system.