Oscar Pistorius trial: Judge hits out at press coverage of case as athlete's court date is set

Magistrate Daniel Thulare says behaviour of media outlets could be interpreted as contempt of court

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The Independent Online

The judge in the murder trial of Oscar Pistorius used the occasion of a court hearing to hit out at the “scandalous conduct” of the media in its reporting on the case.

Magistrate Daniel Thulare said the behaviour of domestic and international media outlets could be interpreted as contempt of court.

“It appears there is a trial by media,” a stern Mr Thulare said to a crowded courtroom, which included some 100 journalists, before urging the media to “preserve the sanctity of the fountains of justice.”

Mr Pistorius appeared in a Pretoria courtroom for a ten minute hearing today, charged with the premeditated murder of 29-year-old Reeva Steenkamp in February.

During the brief hearing, the judge accepted a request to postpone the athlete's trial, ruling that Pistorius would remain free on bail until his next court appearance in August.

The date of the trial was moved to 19 August, which would have been Reeva Steenkamp's 30th birthday.

State prosecutors suggested the date, declining to give reasons why in open court, but said that investigations were ongoing and were only expected to be completed in August.

Mr Pistorius' defence team had agreed to the new date prior to today's hearing, and did not oppose the magistrate's ruling.

The comments from Judge Thulare come after British broadcaster Sky News last week broadcast apparently-leaked photographs of the crime scene in Mr Pistorius' bathroom, with a pool of coagulating blood, the smashed door and bullet holes.

Defence lawyer Brian Webber told journalists that recent media coverage of the matter was “absolutely over the top and grossly disproportionate.”

Staring straight ahead in the dock, Oscar Pistorius appeared much more composed than the distraught, bowed figure seen during his February bail hearing.

Mr Pistorius' uncle, Arnold, who he is currently residing with, has said his nephew is having a difficult time, but has the support of his family. “I've got no doubt in my mind that he is not a murderer,” he said in a TV interview, broadcast the weekend before the hearing.

Arnold Pistorius has said that in recent months Oscar has surrounded himself with photographs of his deceased girlfriend, and had grown his beard in order to be less recognisable.

But Mr Pistorius was clean-shaven when he arrived in court, in a sharp grey suit and checkered tie, greeted by a wall of cameras.