In a strikingly fast turnaround the South African athlete Oscar Pistorius is set to be released from prison on parole in August after serving just 10 months of his sentence.
If you have been living under a rock for the past couple of years you may not have heard about this story, but for those who need a refresher, Pistorius was convicted of culpable homicide in the killing of his model girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp. The 10 months the athlete has spent in prison is only slightly longer than his trial ended up being and is only a sixth of what he had been initially sentenced for.
The Olympic and Paralympic track star is currently serving a five year prison sentence after being convicted in October following a seven-month trial.
“Oscar will be released on parole by the end of August,” a Pistorius family member who did not want to be named told Reuters. Officials at South Africa’s department of correctional services were not immediately available to comment. Presumedly because they were too busy shielding themselves from the onslaught of complaints they will likely be receiving.
The release of Pistorius, who had represented South Africa in both the Paralympics and the Olympics, was largely expected because he was sentenced under South African law to serve a short period of time in jail, or just one-sixth of the sentence. This policy is known as “correctional supervision” essentially working in the same way as house arrest whilst being heavily monitored when he is outside. He will be monitored carefully and if he puts a toe out of line he will be returned to prison.
Pistorius is being held, at least for the moment, in South Africa’s capital at the Pretoria Central Prison, once the execution site for opponents of South Africa’s racist, white-minority government.
Steenkamp, a 29-year-old law graduate and model, died almost instantly on Valentine’s Day in 2013 when Pistorius shot her through a locked toilet door at his luxury Pretoria home.
The prosecution had pushed for a murder conviction, but the athlete maintained he fired in the mistaken belief an intruder was hiding behind the door, a defence that struck home in a country with one of the world’s highest rates of violent crimes. Whilst Pistorius was found not to have murdered his girlfriend the events of the trial has meant that the court of public opinion decided long ago where they stand on this case. He himself was also said to have been on suicide watch early in his prison sentence as he felt acutely responsible for Steenkamp’s death.
The prosecutors have however won their bid to appeal the culpable homicide conviction, which means they will now seek a murder conviction when their case is heard again in November. The decision in the new hearing could leave Pistorius open to a prison sentence of at least 15 years if he is convicted of murder.
Tania Koen, one of the members of the legal team for Ms Steenkamp’s parents Barry and June, said that while the two had forgiven Pistorius, “ten months is not enough”. Koen would continue to say, “It also doesn’t send out the proper message and serve as the proper deterrent as the way it should.”
Whilst undoubtedly true the reason for the Pistorius verdict had more to do with the way the laws are constructed than the act itself. That act will once again be on trial in 5 months and we will finally know where the man once known as the blade runner will spend the next 10 years of his life.