Pistorius under house arrest until murder sentencing

Oscar Pistorius was once again surrounded by media as he entered court in Pretoria yesterday for a hearing. Picture: AFP/Getty Images
Oscar Pistorius was once again surrounded by media as he entered court in Pretoria yesterday for a hearing. Picture: AFP/Getty Images
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Oscar Pistorius will remain under house arrest pending his sentencing for his murder conviction, after a South African judge granted bail to the Olympic and Paralympic athlete.

The country’s Supreme Court of Appeal convicted Pistorius last Thursday of murdering girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp in 2013, overturning a lower court’s conviction for manslaughter. The appeals court then said the double-amputee, nicknamed “Bladerunner”, should be sentenced by the lower court.

Judge Aubrey Ledwaba of that court, the North Gauteng High Court in Pretoria, granted Pistorius bail of 10,000 rand (about £460) and extended his house arrest until his sentencing hearing, which he set for 18 April 2016.

South Africa’s minimum sentence for murder is 15 years, though a judge can reduce that in exceptional circumstances.

Judge Ledwaba said Pistorius will also be placed under electronic monitoring and may only leave his uncle’s home between 7am and 12pm. Pistorius may not travel further than a 12-mile radius outside of his uncle’s mansion, which lies in a Pretoria suburb, the judge ruled. He must also hand over his passport to the police.

The state had argued that Pistorius may try to flee, and asked for strict bail conditions.

“We have a convicted murderer applying for bail, so the conditions should be stricter,” said prosecutor Gerrie Nel.

Pistorius’s bail is a fraction of the one million rand (about £45,600) he paid when he first appeared in court over the 2013 shooting. But in his bail affidavit, he said he had no income and during the hearing, his lawyer said he was only able to pay 10,000 rand for bail.

In the meantime, Pistorius’s legal team plans to appeal against the murder conviction in South Africa’s highest court, the Constitutional Court, chief defence lawyer Barry Roux said.

The former athlete’s lawyer did not say on what basis he would be appealing, but it is believed the team intends to argue that the Supreme Court of Appeal overturned the factual findings of the trial judge though it had no power to do so, and also that the appeal judges failed to take into account Pistorius’s state of mind at the time of the shooting.

Prosecutor Mr Nel told the court he doubted that this next appeal would be successful. He said: “We’re not convinced that the accused has made out a good case and that his application to the Constitutional Court will be successful, but we acknowledge that he has the right to bring such an application.”

Pistorius shot Miss Steenkamp through the door of a toilet cubicle in his home in the early hours of Valentine’s Day 2013. Prosecutors said he killed her after an argument; Pistorius said he killed her by mistake, thinking there was an intruder in the house.

The appeals court said that, regardless of who was behind the door, Pistorius should have known someone could be killed if he fired multiple times. Under South African law, a person can be convicted of murder if they foresaw the possibility of someone dying through their actions and went ahead anyway.

Pistorius was placed under house arrest in October after serving one year of a five-year prison sentence for the earlier manslaughter conviction.

During yesterday’s court appearance, the first time he has appeared in court in more than a year, Pistorius was dressed in a dark suit and he spoke softly with his lawyer and others before proceedings began.

Pistorius travelled to North Gauteng High Court from his uncle’s mansion in Pretoria, where he had been serving his house arrest sentence.