Paralympian and the man charged with culpable homicide in the killing of his girlfriend, Oscar Pistorius will be highly vulnerable in the notorious South African prisons. He will most likely be subjected to gang rape and his disability will make him prone to poor hygiene. This was said by Parole officer Annette Vergeer, who was admittedly paid by the defence in the much publicized Oscar Pistorius trial.
Oscar Pistorius is a South African athlete who ranks among the few to have competed in both the Paralympics, which is reserved for persons with disabilities as well as in the Olympics. On Valentine’s Day in 2013, Oscar shot and killed his model and law student girlfriend, Reeva Steenkamp at his upmarket Pretoria home. While admitting to shooting at Reeva, Oscar disputes the prosecution’s contention that he deliberately shot at his girlfriend with the express intention of killing her. He argues that he thought that she was an intruder who was intent on attacking him and his girlfriend. He says he shot through the bathroom door mostly in fear. The prosecution, led by well known attorney, Gerry Nel, disputed this version and argued that he knew exactly who he was shooting at as this was during a dispute and Reeva had gone into the bathroom to get away from Oscar. In her judgement, Judge Thokozile Masipa found that, in shooting at the door, Oscar did not have the intention of killing the person who was behind the door and therefore she could not charge him with murder but with manslaughter, which, in South African law, is referred to as culpable homicide.
On Monday, the defence, led by the now popular Barry Roux, launched its desperate bid to keep Oscar out of prison. On Monday, they called to the stand several ‘experts’ including social worker Joel Maringa, who recommended that the athlete be handed a three year house arrest sentence, which Bulldog Gerry as he is popularly known considered as ‘shockingly inappropriate’. Another defence witness, Lore Hartzenberg, who is also Oscar’s therapist, described the double amputee as ‘a broken man’ who had suffered great remorse for the killing of his girlfriend. She also informed the court that he had not had the chance to mourn his girlfriend because of the trial and the media frenzy. On Tuesday, the prosecution continued with the contention that Oscar be kept out of jail. Parole Officer Annette Vergeer added that without legs, Oscar would be more vulnerable than a normal man and this would make him more susceptible to gang rape and violence in prison. She added, “I`ve recently done a case for rape within the prison, gang rape, how can we say that he won’t be exposed to that?” Parole Officer Vergeer added that washing his stumps would be a problem too. However, department of correctional services in South Africa disputed this, arguing that the Olympian could be entitled to separate accommodation depending on the limitations imposed by his disability.
Judge Thokozile Masipa is expected to pass sentence on either Thursday or Friday. The sentence could be anything from a suspended sentence to a fifteen year prison term as there is no mandatory sentence for culpable homicide according to South African law. After the sentence is handed down, both the prosecution and the defence have fourteen days in which to appeal the judgement.