herald

Tuesday 24 October 2017

Pistorius 'a guilt-ridden and broken man' - psychologist

Oscar Pistorius faces the prospect of as many as 15 years in jail as his sentencing hearing started for the manslaughter conviction in the killing of his girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp.

Defence attorney Barry Roux started his case for mitigation in Pretoria, South Africa's capital, by calling Pistorius's psychologist Lore Hartzenberg to testify.

She said Pistorius needed ongoing psychological therapy and that he was suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder, was guilt-ridden by Steenkamp's death and was devastated by "constant negative attacks against him".

"We are left with a broken man who has lost everything," Hartzenberg said.

"He's unlikely to fully recover from the consequences of the shooting incident."

Judge Thokozile Masipa (66) will hand down the sentence after Roux and prosecutor Gerrie Nel finish calling witnesses.

His punishment could be as little as a fine.

"He was very emotional, there were sessions that we couldn't conduct some of the sessions," Hartzenberg said. "Some of the sessions were just him weeping and crying and me holding him."

Nel began his cross-examination by saying that while Pistorius might be a broken man, "he's still alive".

Nel said he would present evidence that Steenkamp's father, Barry, suffered a stroke after the shooting.

Masipa cleared Pistorius (27) of murder charges before convicting him of culpable homicide for killing Steenkamp when he fired four hollow-point bullets through a toilet door in his house in the early hours of Valentine's Day last year. Pistorius said he thought Steenkamp was an intruder.

supervision

Hartzenberg said Pistorius accepted his actions were responsible for Steenkamp's death and that "in his heart and mind, Ms Steenkamp was the one".

"If he only fired one shot at the door, the court would be much more inclined to give correctional supervision, but because there were four shots fired through the door, then you're talking about gross negligence," Marius du Toit, a Pretoria-based criminal-defence lawyer.

"It's for this reason that I reckon the court can easily send him to jail."

If he does receive a prison term, it's likely to be less than 15 years because that would be a punishment for murder, Du Toit said.

Masipa extended his bail of 1 million rand (€71,000).

Pistorius will be free to compete at the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro as long as the judge doesn't hand down a multiple year jail term, South Africa's Olympic Committee said last month.

Steenkamp's family has expressed disappointment with Masipa's ruling.

"This verdict is not justice for Reeva," June Steenkamp, Reeva's mother, told NBC News last month. "He shot through the door and I can't believe that they believe it was an accident."

hnews@herald.ie

Promoted articles

Entertainment News