The South African Justice System is making itself a worldwide laughing stock, don’t you think? The latest part in the disturbing saga staring malevolent Oscar Pistorius came today when he was back in Pretoria’s High Court.
He was convicted by the SA Supreme Court last week of murder. In any other jurisdiction his feet wouldn’t have touched the ground before he was banged-up in a grotty prison cell – but NOT in South Africa, eh? Well, not for the rich and famous anyway.
No, there he was this morning, confidently chatting with his expensive legal team in the court to successfully get bail, and even more than that result, the conditions of his parole’s house arrest on his previous five year sentence for manslaughter, have been relaxed (from the Prosecution’s requirements and the Defence’s agreement) , so he can now get out and about for five hours in the morning – why? It couldn’t be all that difficult living at his uncle’s palatial home in Pretoria could it? He explained in his application to the Court that he was now Impoverished (what exactly has happened to his immense riches then?) so he shouldn’t get a high bail set – the Judge unbelievably accepted that ridiculous assertion and it was set at a derisory £450 – a year ago it was a hundred times that (bail money is only lost though if you abscond and the penniless criminals normally get it put up by someone like a rich uncle, don’t they?) Bail is normally meant to be granted and used to restrict freedom on someone who has NOT been convicted (and Pistorius has, hasn’t he?).
It is claimed that there is no risk of him fleeing – an unusual conclusion surely when you have a young man, convicted of murder, a proven criminal facing the almost certainty of at least a fifteen year jail sentence, with no house or home of his own, no declared assets in South Africa, no job no qualifications no career no prospects, with international contacts and widespread travel experience, the ability to secrete himself outside the country, and access to a shed load of family money? Most people in that position would up-sticks given the opportunity, wouldn’t they? (And he just has been given it).
Furthermore, apparently he won’t even get seen now for resentencing for at least another four months – so more jail time is a long way off isn’t it (and he has only done eleven months time for slaughtering a young woman)? So he gets to spend Christmas and much more time afterwards, with his family living a luxury lifestyle. That’s justice for a murderer of status in South Africa you see – strange?
So rather than have his temporary punishment ‘tightened’ (as all and sundry expected), until he is resentenced for the even greater crime of murder, he is actually ‘rewarded’ – why? Is it any wonder then that Pistorius’ face broke into a smile when Judge Audrey Ledwaba announced all that news, don’t you think? He should have been distraught as he is facing a minimum fifteen years in jail to replace the less than a year in a soft hospital wing cell with specially installed en-suite, but instead he was reportedly relaxed, and laughing (probably at the Justice System?).
All this comes of course on top of the unbelievable way he was dealt with before his trial – with astoundingly lax bail conditions et al.
It was also announced at the hearing that Pistorius is applying to the constitutional court in appeal against his conviction by the Supreme Court. It will be interesting to see exactly in what way his highly paid smart-arse’d lawyers claim the appeal judges violated his constitutional rights –that is not going to be easy, is it?. There doesn’t seem to be much of a broad constitutional principle involved in a high profile criminal being convicted of murder, is there? Is his move really just a cynical ploy to buy more time out of jail (but will no doubt reduce the time inside) before he is resentenced (as he has a fat chance of success, dont you think?).
As one would expect in any country that has a constitution (and Britain doesn’t of course – yet?), it is that charter which trumps all other laws in South Africa (just like it does in America). Hence we get the Constitutional Court of South Africa being the supreme constitutional court. It consists of eleven judges who normally all sit to hear every case, and their individual decisions are released in written form. Their judgments of course are based therefore on their interpretations of the constitution, it being the supreme law of the land.
Their judgements have included significant national issues like the non-validity of capital punishment, extradition refusal where subject might the face death penalty, recognition of land rights under customary law, the government’s obligation to provide housing relief for those suffering intolerable conditions, the requirement to allow same sex marriage. How does Oscar Pistarius’s situation fit into that kind of thing, would you say?
Most law matters are the responsibility for the SA systems in other courts, so this Court doesn’t hear evidence or witnesses, or even deal with verdicts – where does that leave Pistorius then, when its sole responsibility is to consider written arguments on particularly difficult constitutional issues?
[Any hopes that people previously had of hearing nothing for fifteen years of Pistorius were certainly dashed today]