Oscar Pistorius sentencing: Reeva Steenkamp's sister pleads with judge not to let athlete 'use his disability as an excuse' for homicide

'[Are they saying that] if you are missing an arm or a leg or whatever, you don't go to jail? They should put him in a wheelchair,' Simone Cowburn said

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The Independent Online

Simone Cowburn, the British sister of Reeva Steenkamp, has said she believes Oscar Pistorius is exploiting his disability in order to be granted a more lenient sentence by the judge.

The amputee athlete, who famously competed in the 2012 Olympics alongside able bodied sportsmen as well as in the Paralympics, was found guilty of the culpable homicide of his model girlfriend last month.


Pistorius’s defence team have pleaded to Judge Thokozile Masipa to place him under house arrest instead of handing him a prison term.

"I don't think much of the story of him being disabled and that there is no room for disability in prison and that he must get house arrest," Cowburn told the Daily Mail.

"It is not right. He has been on bail since the shooting. He has been free to go anywhere he wants... chatting up other women.

"He went into the Olympics and competed against other [able-bodied] athletes and he shouldn't use his disability as an excuse now. He should be punished like any other able bodied person. He shouldn't be given privileges now.

"[Are they saying that] if you are missing an arm or a leg or whatever, you don't go to jail? They should put him in a wheelchair. There are people with disabilities in prison.


"I was in court and he showed no remorse whatsoever. The crying, the vomiting and all that type of thing were because he realises he has done wrong, but I believe it was all an act."

She went on to highlight the disproportionate South African legal system, which can impose harsher sentences on criminals found guilty of theft or breaking and entering than it can do for some more violent crimes, like culpable homicide, which carries a maximum 10-year jail term. There is no minimum sentence for his crime, leaving it down to the judge to decide.

Judge Masipa could give Pistorius a suspended sentence, which he could potentially serve at home. His suspended sentence could be cancelled altogether if he passes a probation period on good behaviour.

Community service is another option he could receive.

"Oscar deserves prison. How can he just stay in the luxury of his house after taking somebody's life," Cowburn continued. "What is house arrest if not just wrong?

"Community service and house arrest are ridiculous. These should be for people who are stealing or other minor offences. Not shooting somebody. Reeva deserves justice.

"This case will set a precedent all around the world. We do not want other men to get off just because Oscar Pistorius has. It is still homicide.

"If a man steals a block of cheese here, he can get 20 years and that is for theft. But if you take somebody's life like Oscar has, you can get house arrest. It is not right.

Oscar Pistorius wipes tears during his fifth day of sentencing hearing at the North Gauteng High Court in Pretoria

“He has got to do time. It is hard to say how long he should get. Ten or twenty years or whatever.”

Pistorius’s legal team have also argued that they believe his disability and "psychological weakness" could make him a jail gang target and that imprisoning him would be a high risk to his personal safety.

Annette Vergeer, a probation officer paid by the defence, told the court: "His disability and state of mind would cause his detention to be an excessive punishment with no benefits to him, society and the deceased's family."

"These type of incidents have to stop. I believe Oscar was guilty of domestic violence at its most extreme," Cowburn countered.

Leaving a final message to Judge Masipa she added: "She should think about this very carefully because it is going to affect the whole world, especially South Africa.

"The trial of Oscar Pistorius should be sending a message out for men to understand that if somebody doesn't want to be with them, they should let them go.

"I believe Reeva was going to leave him. He wanted to own her and she was not that kind of person.

"I find some South African men, not all of them but a lot of them, are very jealous. Reeva was very independent because our mother brought us up that way and to understand the meaning of love.

"If Oscar was here in front of me now I'd ask him why he couldn't just let her go and move on."

Pistorius will hear his sentence tomorrow.