Oscar Pistorius granted bail after murder conviction

  • 8 December 2015
  • From the section Africa
Media captionJudge Ledwaba granted Oscar Pistorius bail at the end of a short hearing

South African Olympic athlete Oscar Pistorius has been granted bail while he awaits sentence for murdering his girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp in 2013.

Judges changed his conviction from manslaughter to murder last week. He has already served one year in prison.

Pistorius now faces a minimum sentence of 15 years' imprisonment, if he fails in a bid to overturn his conviction.

He intends to mount an appeal at the highest court in South Africa, the Constitutional Court.

This could see delays of many more months, says the BBC's Karen Allen at the high court in the South African capital, Pretoria.

At the scene: Milton Nkosi, BBC News, Pretoria

Now that Oscar Pistorius has been granted bail, it must have come as a huge relief that he will spend Christmas at home. Sitting in court, I was left with an impression that the judge was not interested in imposing strict conditions.

Pistorius himself looked relaxed, chatting and laughing with his legal team during the brief adjournment while the judge was considering his fate.

The double amputee's bail application also revealed that he had enrolled to study "a BSc business with law degree" at the London School of Economics - but the university says it does not offer that degree or correspondence courses.

Pistorius indicated in court documents that he intended to lodge an appeal to the highest court in the land. This would be the very last legal avenue available for the disgraced athlete to overturn his conviction.

Bail has been set at 10,000 rand ($700, £450). Pistorius was deemed not to be a flight risk by Judge Audrey Ledwaba.

Image copyright AFP
Image caption Reeva Steenkamp's mother June (centre) was in court for last week's ruling

Pistorius can remain under house arrest at his uncle's home until sentencing next year, and will be electronically tagged. He also has to hand over his passport.

He will be able to leave the house between 07:00 and midday, but will only be able to move within a 20km (12 miles) radius.

He is currently under house arrest after spending one year of his original five-year sentence in jail.

Media captionOscar Pistorius - in 60 seconds

In his bail affidavit, he said he had no income. During the hearing, his lawyer said he was only able to pay a sum of 10,000 rand for his bail.

What next for Pistorius?

  • Will the Constitutional Court hear the case?

It is rare for the court to hear criminal matters, but it is likely to take up this one because there are arguable points of law which need to be clarified in the public interest. Otherwise, it tends to hear only those cases which infringe on constitutional rights - for instance, the right to a fair trial. However, it does not seem, at this stage, that Pistorius' legal team is going down that route.

  • So what is their case?

His legal team intends to argue that the Supreme Court of Appeal overturned the factual findings of the trial judge, and they had no power to do so. His lawyers believe the appeal court did this when it found that Pistorius could not have honestly and genuinely believed his life was in danger. They also believe that the appeal judges had failed to take into account Pistorius' state of mind at the time of the shooting.

  • Could he win?

The Constitutional Court tends to be reluctant to overturn decisions of lower courts, especially in criminal cases. So, the chances of the appeal succeeding are limited at best.

  • What happens in the meantime?

Pistorius will remain on bail until we know the outcome of his appeal bid. On 18 April, the High Court will be given an update on what is happening.

Answers by Johannesburg-based legal analyst Tyrone Maseko

10 key moments from the trial

The 29-year-old killed Ms Steenkamp on Valentine's Day after shooting four times through a locked toilet door.

Pistorius is a six-time Paralympic gold medallist whose legs were amputated below the knee as a baby. He made history by becoming the first amputee sprinter to compete at the Olympics, in 2012, running on prosthetic "blades".

Last week, South Africa's Supreme Court of Appeal in Bloemfontein accepted prosecution arguments and ruled that the lower court did not correctly apply the concept of "dolus eventualis" - whether Pistorius knew that a death would be a likely result of his actions.

Last week's ruling said that having armed himself with a high-calibre weapon, Pistorius must have foreseen that whoever was behind the door might die, especially given his firearms training.

Media captionOscar Pistorius case by numbers

Pistorius always maintained that he believed there was an intruder in the house - but Justice Eric Leach said that the identity of the person behind the door was "irrelevant to his guilt".

The judge added that Pistorius did "not take that most elementary precaution of firing a warning shot".

Correspondents say that many in South Africa were upset by the original acquittal on murder charges. Women's rights groups argued he should have been found guilty of murder as a deterrent because of the high number of women who are killed by their partners in the country.

The double amputee was released from prison on 19 October under "correctional supervision", having served a sixth of his sentence.

Pistorius key dates:

Media captionPistorius becomes the first amputee sprinter to compete at the Olympics
  • August 2012: Competes in London Olympics and Paralympics, where he won a gold medal
  • February 2013: Shoots dead his girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp
  • March 2014: Trial begins
  • September 2014: Judge finds Pistorius guilty of culpable homicide
  • October 2014: Begins five-year sentence
  • October 2015: Transferred to house arrest
  • December 2015: Appeal court changes verdict to murder

The making and unmaking of Oscar Pistorius

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