'Pistorius At Risk of Gang Rape if Sent to Prison'

Last month Judge Thokozile Masipa convicted Oscar of culpable homicide, or negligent killing.

Published: 15th October 2014 12:55 AM  |   Last Updated: 15th October 2014 12:56 AM   |  A+A-


Oscar Pistorius had to squeeze awkwardly past his ex-girlfriend who testified against him as he walked to the dock yesterday (Tuesday) on the second day of the Paralympian's sentencing hearing.

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The double-amputee sprinter is expected to know this week whether he will be sent to jail for culpable homicide (manslaughter) for the death of his girlfriend, Reeva Steenkamp.

During a day of drawn-out mitigation arguments yesterday, Annette Vergeer, a probation officer, told the court that Pistorius would be vulnerable to gang rape if sent to prison and should serve house arrest instead.

Ms Vergeer, a witness for the defence, described the dangers of drugs, gangs and sodomy in South Africa's prisons, which she said are poorly equipped for disabled people.

She also warned of the risks of transmission of HIV and tuberculosis due to overcrowding and poor sanitation.

Prison would "break" Pistorius, and "take away his future," she said, adding: "How can we say Pistorius will not be a victim of gang rape?"

It also emerged yesterday that Miss Steenkamp's parents will repay the "bloody money" of 6,000 rand (pounds 340) that Pistorius has been sending them every month.

Dup de Bruyn, the lawyer for June and Barry Steenkamp, told reporters that the couple will not seek further financial compensation for the loss of their daughter.

Ms Vergeer is the fourth and final witness for the defence, which is arguing for a lenient sentence from Judge Thokozile Masipa. The probation officer faced intense cross-examination by Gerrie Nel, the lead prosecutor, at times arguing with him and refusing to answer his questions.

Earlier, Mr Nel questioned Pistorius's manager, Peet van Zyl, over his testimony about the athlete's charity work, telling the Pretoria court: "I am not saying Pistorius is not involved in charitable works, but I am saying that it is common practice for sportsmen."

Pistorius has been found not guilty of murder, a decision that may yet be appealed against by the state.

Prosecutors have said that they will call two witnesses in an attempt to convince Judge Masipa to give a tough sentence, although it remains unclear who will be testifying for the state.

In court yesterday was Pistorius's ex-girlfriend, Samantha Taylor, who during the trial said that the athlete carried a gun with him everywhere and that their relationship had ended when he cheated on her with Miss Steenkamp.

She was accompanied by her mother, Patricia, who published a book last month entitled Oscar: An Accident Waiting to Happen, about her daughter's troubled relationship with the athlete.

Pistorius appeared to be scrupulously avoiding eye contact as he passed his ex-girlfriend and the rest of the group on his way to the dock.

Judge Masipa found Pistorius guilty last month of culpable homicide for shooting dead Miss Steenkamp at his Pretoria home in the early hours of Valentine's Day, 2013. In her judgment, she said that Pistorius had acted "negligently" when he fired four times through a lavatory cubicle door, but accepted that he had mistaken his girlfriend for an intruder.

The sentence could range from a suspended prison sentence and a fine to 15 years in prison. In her testimony, Ms Vergeer recommended that Pistorius be placed under house arrest for three years, saying it would give the athlete a better chance of rehabilitation. This recommendation mirrors that of Joel Maringa, a correctional services official who testified for the defence on Monday.

Ms Vergeer said Pistorius was highly unlikely to reoffend and has shown remorse, including by sending the money to Miss Steenkamp's parents.


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