OSCAR PISTORIUS HAS been granted bail, a South African court said today.
The 26-year-old athlete will be free under certain conditions until his trial later this year.
Magistrate Desmond Nair’s decision – given at the end of a two hour statement – was met by shouts of “Yes” from the Pistorius family and supporters.
Bail has been set at one million Rand (about €85,000). He must hand over all his guns and is banned from international departures. He is not allowed consume alcohol or drugs and random tests have been ordered.
His next court appearance will be 4 June 2013.
The Paralympic champion and Olympian still stands accused of the pre-meditated murder of his girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp. She died in the early hours of St Valentine’s Day at Pistorius’s Pretoria home. She was shot three times.
Nair revealed his ruling after a drawn-out judgement, which included explanations for decisions about media presence in courtrooms, his earlier ruling to allow Pistorius to be held in a police station rather than a prison cell and a further recap and analysis of evidence.
The judge replayed the night of Steenkamp’s death and the months she spent with Pistorius before 14 February through sworn statements made by the accused and a number of her friends.
The defendant kept his head down and wept continuously through most of the judgement. Sky News correspondent Alex Crawford noted that he was “sobbing and shaking” as the magistrate repeated his friends’ words about the couple being “deeply in love”.
Nair said he approached the case as a schedule six offence but that he is not “at this point seized with the issue of finding beyond reasonable doubt” that the accused had committed pre-meditated murder. That is a job for the trial judge, he added.
He also said that although the prosecution had only produced circumstantial evidence over the past four days, the State did reach the threshold of convincing him that the charge was acceptable.
On the issue of bail, he found that Pistorius was not a flight risk, nor a risk to others through violence. He was less clear on the issue of ‘exceptional circumstances’ over the strength and weaknesses of the State and defence cases.
Nair said the defence had failed to show weakness in the State case, but equally the prosecution had failed to outline a case “so strong and watertight” that the applicant would come to the conclusion that he needs to flee or evade trial.
During this morning’s proceedings, the State’s lead prosecutor Gerrie Nel continued to argue that the accused intended to kill on 14 February. He also said he was a flight risk and may not stand trial if he is bailed.
During his closing argument, he also questioned Pistorius’s lawyers claim that the victim’s bladder was empty when she died, why there were open windows and doors in the house if the athlete was as paranoid about intruders as he says he is and whether he realises the gravity of what he has done.
Barry Roux, counsel for Pistorius, ended his appearance with queries about the transfer of intent. He said that the State is legally incorrect when it says intent to kill a perceived burglar cannot be transferred as intent to kill Steenkamp.
The defence team also pointed to Pistorius’s fame and disability as reasons he would not flee the country if granted bail.
The magistrate adjourned the court for two-and-a-half-hours so he could make the “unenviable decision” about bail.
The new investigating officer Vineshkumar Moonoo arrived in court as proceedings got underway. He was assigned to the case yesterday after it emerged Officer Hilton Botha was himself facing multiple attempted murder charges dating back to 2011.
The Pistorius family were in court again today, the fourth day of the prolonged hearing. His younger sister Aimee sat with brother Carl and father Henke. Their uncle Arnold and Oscar’s coach Ampie Louw were also present.
Before the decision was made, Louw told reporters that Pistorius’s training would resume “immediately” if he was granted bail.