Oscar Pistorius, the South African Paralympic sprinter who fatally shot his girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp on Valentine’s Day 2013, has been granted parole effective July 2023, correctional services authorities announced on November 24, 2023.
Background on the Murder Case
On February 14, 2013, Pistorius shot four times through a locked bathroom door in his Pretoria home, killing his girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp, a 29-year-old model. Pistorius claimed he mistook Steenkamp for an intruder when he fired the fatal shots.
At his trial the following year, Pistorius was found guilty of culpable homicide – an offense comparable to manslaughter – for negligently killing Steenkamp. He was sentenced to 5 years in prison. Prosecutors appealed the conviction and sentence, and the appeal court upgraded Pistorius’ conviction to murder, saying his testimony was contradictory and that he had failed to explain why he fired the shots. He was sentenced to 6 years in prison.
|February 14, 2013
|Pistorius shoots and kills girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp
|Found guilty of culpable homicide, sentenced to 5 years
|Conviction upgraded to murder, sentenced to 6 years
In July 2016, Pistorius was treated at a hospital for wrist injuries, which he said were sustained after falling out of bed. However, reports emerged that Pistorius had engaged in a fight with another inmate and deliberately injured himself to secure a transfer out of the prison.
Conditions of Parole
On Friday November 24, 2023, the Gauteng Parole Board announced that Pistorius, 36, has met the requirements to be released on parole effective July 2023 after serving half of his 6-year sentence for shooting Steenkamp.
Pistorius will be placed under supervision until 2030, and faces a number of conditions during his parole:
- He must continue receiving psychotherapy and attend "programs directed at offending behavior"
- He is banned from contacting the Steenkamp family
- He cannot possess any firearms
- He must perform 16 hours per month of community service
- He may not leave the district of Gauteng without permission of his parole officer
Reactions from Steenkamp Family and Supporters
The Steenkamp family has opposed Pistorius’ early release. In a statement, Reeva’s mother June Steenkamp said Pistorius has never apologized or spoken the truth: "He decided Reeva’s fatethe night he shot her."
Reeva Steenkamp’s cousin Kim Martin, speaking on behalf of the family, said: "We have been made aware of that parole hearing and its outcome but have not participated in the process‚ as it is neither mandated nor expected of us." She said the family chooses to focus on Reeva’s legacy rather than Pistorius’ fate.
Women’s rights groups in South Africa have also objected to his release, arguing that Pistorius has served too little time for the murder of Reeva Steenkamp and the decision sends a poor message about violence against women.
Pistorius does continue to have some supporters who argue he deserves a second chance in life. One acquaintance told reporters recently that Pistorius is "a broken man" who has paid his debt to society.
What Next for Oscar Pistorius
Once released from prison, Pistorius is expected to live with his parental uncle Arnold Pistorius for the duration of his parole.
His lawyer told AFP that Pistorius wants to contribute and make a difference in the lives vulnerable people similar to his circumstance and background.
Pistorius is unlikely to return to competitive athletics given his age, disabilities, and notoriety from the high-profile murder trial. The International Paralympic Committee said in 2016 that Pistorius cannot compete again until the court decides he would not bring the body into disrepute.
While Pistorius qualified for parole after serving half his sentence under South African law, the decision is still controversial given the violent nature of Steenkamp’s murder. Pistorius will have to adhere closely to his parole conditions over the next 5 years until his sentence expires in 2030. The reactions of Reeva Steenkamp’s family and women’s rights activists will continue to shape attitudes to his conditional release back into society.
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