Spellbound by trial and errors
The scale of these problems is enormous. More than 64,000 sexual offences, including rape, were reported in South Africa in the year to April 2012, and domestic violence against women is common. The rape figures could be much higher, as research suggests that only a fraction of sexual assaults are reported.
The latest crime statistics, for 2011, show there were more than 15,000 murders and nearly 250,000 burglaries that year. South Africans spend billions on security: Pistorius’s habit of sleeping with a gun beneath his bed is not unusual.
Indeed, Pistorius said in his defence that he had received death threats in the past and that he believed people were crime targets in their own homes. He suggested in his affidavit that this fear of being burgled caused him to open fire and put four bullets through a closed bathroom door without knowing who was behind it.
Cases of fatal shootings in South Africa based on mistaken identity include one in 2004, when a retired international rugby player took his teenage daughter for a thief and shot her dead as she was sneaking out of the family home at night to visit her boyfriend. In December last year a man in Johannesburg accidentally shot dead his young daughter after spotting an intruder downstairs in his house.
Was the shooting of Steenkamp a mistake or the act of a man, who, after arguing with his lover, pulled out a gun and intentionally shot her dead? At this stage we know what transpired in Pistorius’s home between 2am and 3am on February 14th. It is for the coming trial to establish why it occurred.
The trial will most likely be held in the high court, according to the lawyer Jacques Louw, because of Pistorius’s high profile and the seriousness of the charge.
Pistorius’s fate will rest in the hands of a high-court judge, who will have two assessors at his or her side, as South Africa does not use jury trials.
“The trial will proceed in a very similar way to a criminal trial in the UK, as the legal systems have comparable procedures. After both sides put their cases across, the state going first, the judge will make his ruling.
“I’d imagine the hearing will take place sometime later this year, again due to its high-profile nature,” says Louw, referring to the fact that murder cases in South Africa can often take years to come to trial.”
The outcome of the bail hearing – it ended yesterday in Pistorius’s favour – will not affect how the trial is dealt with by the courts, he adds. “There is a lot more evidence to come than was revealed over the past week in Pretoria magistrate’s court.”