Africa

Oscar Pistorius trial: Athlete 'has no money', his lawyer says

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Media captionDefence lawyer: "There is nothing left of this man"

The sentencing hearing of Oscar Pistorius has heard that the South African athlete has no money left, as both sides' final arguments were made.

Defence lawyer Barry Roux said Pistorius was both "broke and broken" after the seven-month trial.

Pistorius was convicted of culpable homicide last month after shooting dead his girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp last year, but was cleared of murder.

Judge Thokozile Masipa is expected to deliver the sentence on Tuesday.

There is no legal limit on the length of a jail term, but the prosecution has argued for a minimum of 10 years.

Experts say the typical maximum sentence for the crime is around 15 years.

Pistorius' defence team has argued for him to be given community service and house arrest, a suggestion the prosecution said would be "shockingly disproportionate".

Mercy urged

Both defence and prosecution lawyers finished presenting their final arguments before the court was adjourned.

The high-profile trial, which has captured public attention in South Africa and beyond, began in March.

Pistorius sobbed as Mr Roux said the athlete was once an "icon in the eyes of South Africans" and now could not even pay for legal expenses.

"He is not only broke but he is broken," he said.

"He's a first offender. What has happened to this man? He was on the rise," Mr Roux added.

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Media captionProsecutor Gerrie Nel described the idea of a non-custodial sentence as "shockingly disproportionate"

He argued that Pistorius had already suffered greatly since the death of Reeva Steenkamp and had not "earned a penny since".

The lawyer asked Judge Masipa to consider the South African principle of "ubuntu", roughly translated as kindness towards others, in her sentencing.

He also claimed that Pistorius would be unsafe in prison, a claim denied by the prisons chief on Thursday.


At the scene: Andrew Harding, BBC News, Pretoria

Judge Thokozile Masipa must choose between two starkly different interpretations of justice, and of Oscar Pistorius himself, as she spends this weekend pondering what sentence to give the man she's already cleared of murder but found guilty of culpable homicide.

The athlete's lawyer, Barry Roux, used his final arguments to appeal to the judge's sense of humanity in urging her to reject a prison sentence for a man he said was - beyond all doubt - genuinely remorseful and desperate to make amends for killing his girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp.

Prosecutor Gerrie Nel was scornful of the athlete's appeals for leniency, saying his expressions of remorse were not genuine, and that he was "shamefully" exploiting his disability to try to avoid a prison sentence.

The interests (rather than the opinion) of society, the demands of justice, rehabilitation, punishment, fairness and the personal circumstances of both Pistorius and the Steenkamps will all, presumably, inform Judge Masipa's ruling.


Prosecutor Gerrie Nel said that the minimum sentence "society would be happy with" would be 10 years in prison.

"I could have started at 15 and hoped that the court will suspend five, my Lady , but this is a serious matter," he said.

He also repeated criticism of a payment offer by Pistorius to the Steenkamp family.

Image copyright EPA
Image caption The prosecution maintained Pistorius shot Reeva Steenkamp after an argument
Image copyright EPA
Image caption Judge Thokozile Masipa is expected to deliver her verdict on Tuesday

"I cannot but think this is an attempt to influence," he said.

Reeva Steenkamp's family rejected a large lump sum offered by Pistorius.

However, they did accept smaller monthly support payments. They have since promised to repay the cash and not pursue a civil case.

Mr Nel went on to criticise the use of Pistorius' disability in arguments for a shorter sentence.

"I find it disturbing that a person who fought to compete with able-bodied athletes now shamelessly uses disability in mitigation," he said.

The Paralympic sprinter denied murdering Ms Steenkamp after a row on Valentine's Day last year, saying he shot her by mistake, fearing there was an intruder in the house.

Ms Steenkamp, a model, reality TV star and law graduate, was hit three times by bullets shot through a toilet door by Pistorius at his home in the capital, Pretoria.

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