Oscar Pistorius sentencing: Violent South African prisons 'will break athlete as a person'

Probation officer said the double amputee’s disability would make prison an 'excessive punishment'

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The Independent Online

Oscar Pistorius could be gang raped if he is put in prison for killing his girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp, a probation officer has claimed.

Annette Vergeer, a witness called by the defence, said South African prisons may not be safe enough to house him due to the dangers of drugs, violence, poor sanitation and a lack of facilities for disabled people.

Pistorius is appearing in a South African court for a second day of his sentencing hearing to decide what punishment the athlete will receive after being found guilty last month of culpable homicide by Judge Thokozile Masipa.

Ms Vergeer, who was paid by the defence to produce her report, told the hearing that South African jails are violent, unsanitary, overcrowded and riddled with crime.

A prison would be unlikely to fulfil his medical needs, she said, asking: "How can we say Pistorius will not be a victim of gang rape?"

The double amputee would be under particular duress because of his disability and fragile mental state following the fatal shooting of Steenkamp.

Prison "will not assist him, but will break him as a person", the probation officer told the court.

“The death of the deceased and the period since have been a far bigger punishment than incarceration.

“The exposure of the accused on his stumps to inmates will have a severe effect on him.

"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.”

Instead, she recommended three years house arrest with community service.

Earlier, the chief prosecutor had suggested Pistorius is being portrayed as a "poor victim" ahead of his sentencing.

Gerrie Nel was cross-examining Pistorius' agent, Peet van Zyl, who testified on Monday regarding what he called Pistorius' extensive charity work before he shot Ms Steenkamp on Valentine’s Day last year.

His defence lawyers say Judge Masipa should be lenient on the Paralympian, who they has suffered emotionally and financially after the shooting.

OSCAR PISTORIUS ARRIVES IN COURT FOR HIS SENTENCING
PISTORIUS TO FIND OUT HIS SENTENCE FOR CULPABLE HOMICIDE
"PISTORIUS GOT AWAY WITH MURDER"- REEVA STEENKAMP'S FAMILY

The chief prosecutor also challenged Mr van Zyl after he said "maybe there would still have been some opportunities" for Pistorius were it not for alleged inaccuracies in media reporting on the case.

Mr van Zyl said that, since the killing, he had received some invitations asking Pistorius to address audiences and share his life story.

"The legacy that he's left behind is still relevant today," he said.

Additional reporting by agencies