Where Judge Masipa got it wrong on Oscar Pistorius sentence: NPA

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The six year sentence imposed on Paralympian Oscar Pistorius for the murder of his girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp is shockingly inappropriate‚ the National Prosecuting Authority said on Thursday‚ as it set out its reasons for wanting a stiffer penalty.

The NPA is applying for leave to appeal to the Supreme Court of Appeal against the prison sentence Judge Thokozile Masipa imposed on Pistorius earlier this month for the 2013 murder.

ALSO READ: Reeva’s parents had ‘no input’ on decision to appeal Pistorius sentence: Lawyer

It said the sentence of six years’ imprisonment on the murder charge attracted the epithets “shocking”‚ “startling” and “disturbingly inappropriate”.

“We respectfully submit that the sentence of six years’ imprisonment does not adequately reflect the seriousness of the crime of murder and the natural indignation and outrage of the public‚” the NPA said in its application‚ filed in the Pretoria High Court on Thursday. 

Judge Masipa deviated from sentencing Pistorius to the prescribed 15 year minimum sentence to be imposed by the court for murder because of what she believed were compelling and substantial circumstances to impose a lesser sentence.

“We respectfully submit that it was a procedural irregularity not to formally record what the substantial and compelling circumstances are which justified the imposition of a lesser sentence than the minimum prescribed sentence of 15 years’ imprisonment.

A tendency to be swayed by tears, M’lady

“It is unclear to the (NPA) what precisely those circumstances are‚” the NPA said.

The prosecution said the court failed to take into account three major aggravating factors when it sentenced Pistorius.

The first was that it was in the bedroom that Pistorius had formed the intention to shoot and when he realised that there was someone behind the toilet door‚ he fired four shots.

Another aggravating factor was that both the Supreme Court of Appeal and the High Court rejected the argument that Pistorius acted in private defence. The prosecution said there was no justification for his actions.

The third aggravating factor was that Masipa failed to take into account that Pistorius “fired four shots through the door. And he never offered an acceptable explanation for having done so”.

The prosecution said whereas Judge Masipa found that murder was always a very serious crime and the fact that Pistorius thought that Steenkamp was an intruder did not make the crime less serious‚ she misdirected itself in holding that Pistorius’s belief that an intruder had entered the house was a mitigating factor.

The prosecution said while each case must be assessed on its own merits‚ Masipa misdirected herself in under-emphasising the principle that when sentencing in terms of the minimum sentence legislation‚ “a severe‚ standardised‚ and consistent response from the courts” was required in imposing an appropriate sentence.

It also said the court misdirected itself in under-emphasising the interests of the victim and the victim’s relatives.

“The Court misdirected itself in giving too little or no weight to the fact that the deceased was an innocent victim of a needless serious crime‚ and indeed‚ that the deceased’s right to life was needlessly taken from her.”

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