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Pistorius house arrest call

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A representative of the South African Correctional Services Department has recommended Oscar Pistorius be given a penalty of house arrest and community service for killing his girlfriend, Reeva Steenkamp.

Joel Maringa, a social worker employed by the ministry, told the North Gauteng High Court that the trauma experienced by the double-amputee Olympic sprinter “has already been punishing enough”.

Pistorius was a first-time offender and could “be useful for his community through his knowledge of sports”, said Maringa, who was testifying on behalf of the defence at a sentence hearing for the killing of Steenkamp.

Pistorius shot her dead through a bathroom door in his Pretoria home on February 14, 2013.

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Maringa also recommended that the athlete should be declared unfit to own a gun and should undergo fear management and trauma counselling programmes.

Judge Thokozile Masipa on September 12 accepted Pistorius’ version of the events – he had testified that he mistook Steenkamp for a burglar – and found him guilty of manslaughter. The trial is now in the sentencing phase.

Pistorius had planned a future with Steenkamp, paying a deposit on a house he wanted to share with her, his therapist Lore Hartzenberg told the court.

Therapy sessions with the athlete often had to be interrupted because of his incessant weeping, the psychologist testified.

Reeva Steenkamp and Oscar Pistorius
Oscar Pistorius with Reeva Steenkamp. Photo: Getty

At the same time as Pistorius was grieving for “the loss of someone he loved”, he was “often overwhelmed by feelings of guilt or remorse”,while he “questioned God’s grace and forgiveness”, Hartzenberg said.

She said the athlete was very concerned about the Steenkamp family and frustrated by the impossibility of communicating with them. Not being able to attend Steenkamp’s funeral left him with unresolved grief, Hartzenberg said.

The question of whether Pistorius felt remorse could influence the sentence issued by Masipa.

The athlete also had to cope with being “vilified and humiliated” in the media and social networks, leaving him feeling “utterly worthless, devastated and guilt-ridden”, Hartzenberg said.

“We are left with a broken man who has lost everything,” the therapist said.

Pistorius has been diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder and depression, Hartzenberg said, explaining that Pistorius remained on medication and would continue requiring “intensive” therapy.

Prosecutor Gerrie Nel asked the witness how the athlete’s appearances at bars and nightclubs fit in with his alleged remorse. Hartzenberg said they were an attempt to escape from the trauma.

The psychologist said she was aware of reports Pistorius was seeing a woman, but said she did not know if it was a family friend or a girlfriend and that it had not been important enough to bring up in therapy.

State prosecutor Gerrie Nel. Photo: AAP

An anxious-looking Pistorius made no comments to reporters when entering the court building in Pretoria. The number of scanners had been increased following alleged threats to Pistorius’ life, broadcaster eNCA reported.

The defence was expected to call one more witness, while the prosecution said its plans were not yet clear. Nel said the hearing was likely to conclude this week.

Masipa will then issue her sentence, which could range from a fine to a jail term of up to 15 years.

Pistorius did not mean to kill anyone, but acted negligently and unreasonably, knowing there was someone in the toilet with little room for manoeuvre when he fired the shots, the judge said in her September decision.

The verdict sparked an outcry, with many saying Pistorius intended to kill and should have been found guilty of murder.

National Prosecuting Authority spokesman Nathi Mncube said on Monday that the state would seek “the harshest sentence possible”.

“Somebody lost a life and we think that deserves the harshest sentence,” Mncube said.

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