The South African Justice System – after ‘Pistorius’ how does it look?

South_Africa_Department_of_Justice_and_Constitutional_Development_logo                              reeva

Many amateur observers following world  news of the arrest, charging, and subsequent ‘somewhat theatrical’ murder trial of killer Mr Oscar Pistorius in Pretoria South Africa, have been astounded at the revelations exposed about that country’s Justice System, haven’t they?

The latest eye-opener is that the revered learned Judge, who has presided over the trial, is going to take some thirty four days of deliberation on her verdict. In South Africa they don’t use Juries nowadays (abolished in 1969) because of the apartheid’s era of white justice, you see; so the trial judge simply consults with a couple of court anonymous assessors on the evidence, before coming to a sole decision on innocence or guilt. Why is that length of time such a shock & surprise to us then? Well. It is because in our justice systems, using a jury when there are a dozen individuals expected to reach agreement on say a murder charge, we would anticipate a verdict in a few days if not in hours! It is true that in Britain we have had a couple of lengthy verdict deliberations – twenty one days in a complex year long fraud trial and twenty four days in a frightening terrorism case involving multiple accused (the evil criminals then got sentenced to life).

Any other surprises there then? Well, yes. The Pistorius high profile trial, with only one individual in the dock, has been allowed to take an inordinate length of time [six months indeed!] – adjournment after adjournment – so that the numbers of days of actual evidence were totally swamped by the days of delay. The indulgence by the SA system of both Prosecution & Defence has been mesmerising hasn’t it? British legal eagles will have been amazed & astounded by it all, surely?

Any shocks though? Afraid so. Mr Pistorius who admitted to smashing a young women’s head to smithereens (like a watermelon with a gun loaded with illegal ammunition), didn’t face trial for over a year. Perhaps not unacceptable in a complex case, but this doesn’t seem to have been all that intricate does it? Not shocking in itself that, but what was shocking, to much of the World, was that not only wasn’t Pistorius banged-up, but he was allowed to live the life of Riley in luxury with unbelievably quick & lax bail conditions, that allowed him to live in a mansion, drive around in a top of the range car, party, hit on women, drink, get into nightclub fights, promote himself on social media, and travel the World. How many other killers get that kind of kid gloves treatment (bail outside the normal ‘exceptional circumstances’ required) while accused of premeditated murder?

A white, famous, rich, celebrity, world renowned athlete, & disabled, apparently given preferential treatment and favoured in the dysfunctional SA justice system (overcome by high crime rates), where other ordinary accused citizens, the poor, the blacks, the vulnerable, the disenfranchised, rot lengthily in forty percent overcrowded jails awaiting trial – there seems to be a bit of an uneven differential here doesn’t there?

[Trial Judge Thokozile Masipa says she will announce her decision on Thursday 11 September 2014]



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