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i Editor's Letter: Bullying tactics in the Oscar Pistorius trial



I hit mute when the news channels cut to the trial of Oscar Pistorius. One need not sympathise with the athlete  to find the exchanges with state prosecutor Gerrie Nel excruciating.  i reader Terry Duncan of Bridlington, East Yorks, wrote to us asking: “Would Gerrie Nel get away with such bullying in a UK court?”

Yesterday Mr Nel went even  further. The defendant broke down crying four times and was sick in court. “Now you’re trying to be emotional and it’s not working,” said Mr Nel, accusing the 27-year-old of “concocting” an improbable defence. “You’re not using your emotional state as an escape are you?”

So why is Mr Nel behaving this way? The prosecutor’s task is to prove  beyond reasonable doubt that Mr Pistorius knew it was his girlfriend in  the bathroom when he shot her through the door – and not that he suspected an intruder, as he claims. With the only witness dead, that’s very difficult to prove. So Mr Nel’s tactic is to try to break Mr Pistorius on the witness stand; to place him under so much pressure that his defence collapses. Hence the aggression so shocking to observers of other legal systems. Pity Reeva Steenkamp’s family who sit through the evidence – and the judge who must make sense of it.


A bit of an experiment. Instead of running the customary News Matrix list – which can be hit and miss – we have included a “video matrix”, a quick-link to five short videos you can watch on your phone, tablet or desktop computer. (Thanks to reader Dr Mark Laskin for the suggestion.) They are a mixture of UK and international, the serious and the curious, chosen each day by our colleague Linda Sharkey. You can watch them by either typing in the short link, or downloading the  app to your device. Please let her know if you would like anything to feature: i@independent.co.uk

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