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South Africans 'not surprised' by Pistorius verdict

The partner of the late Gerry Ryan has said she is not surprised by the verdict in the Oscar Pistorius trial.

Melanie Verwoerd, the former South African ambassador to Ireland, said most people in the country expected a manslaughter conviction.

“No I don’t think I am (surprised),” said Ms Verwoerd on RTE’s Today Sean O'Rourke.

“I’ve been in South Africa the last few months and I’ve spent a lot of time talking to lawyers. They all suggested this was the way it was going to go.

“I think if she found him completely not guilty on anything that it would have been a really big surprise.”

“But I think for a long time most people didn’t believe she would find him guilty (of murder) because they didn’t feel he actually intended to kill Reeva Steenkamp.”

Olympic athlete Pistorius faces up to 15 years in jail for the manslaughter of his girlfriend during a Valentine's Day shooting at his home in Pretoria.

Judge Thokozile Masipa cleared him of murder but ruled he was guilty of culpable homicide as he had been negligent when he reached for his 9mm pistol and fired four shots through a bathroom door "knowing that whoever was behind the might be killed by the shot".

Ms Verwoerd said the talk has now turned to whether he will walk free from court when sentenced, or face a lengthy jail term.

But she revealed the experienced judge – a former social worker and journalist who became the second black woman appointed to the High Court – is well known for giving strong sentences and speaking out about violence against women.

“It will be very interesting to see how she takes it forward in terms of sentencing,” the ex Unicef Ireland boss said.

“She’s very well known for this.”

Ms Verwoerd said having a black woman preside over the high-profile court case shows how far South Africa has progressed.

“Our justice system, until 20 years ago, was exclusively white,” she said, adding how Nelson Mandela was stopped from studying law.

“The fact that somebody like Judge Thokozile Masipa could then become a judge and preside over such an incredibly high profile is a sign of just how transformation has happened on a racial level.

“On a gender level it’s not been that successful  and there are very few female judges and even fewer black female judges.”

Online Editors