South African Paralympic athlete Oscar Pistorius, accused of murdering his girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp last week, was granted bail this morning, after several days in court.
The magistrate explained that the state has met the threshold for arguing that Pistorius’s shooting of Steenkamp was premeditated and not, as Pistorius’s defence has argued, a response to what Pistorius believed to be a home intrusion. But, the he also stated that even though those accused of murder are usually imprisoned while awaiting trial, “exceptional circumstances” might merit granting bail.
After a short break in proceedings, the magistrate continued, saying there are three criteria for being granted bail: “he will not flee the jurisdiction; he will not try to intimidate witnesses; he is not himself a dangerous person.”
The magistrate said that he “had difficulty” with many aspects of Pistorius’s version of events, poking half a dozen holes in his self-defence story. “There are improbabilities that need to be explored… The defense has failed to show this court that there is a weakness in the strength of the state case.” However, he continued, the state has not shown that its case is so strong that it could impel Pistorius to flee rather than face trial. He concluded that it has not been proven that Pistorius is a flight risk.
On the points of intimidating witnesses or being a dangerous person, however, the magistrate enumerated the ways in which the state had failed to prove that Pistorius has a history and likelihood of violent behaviour. “I appreciate that a person is dead, but I do not necessarily think that is enough” to prove that he is violent, he said.
Finally, he said, there wasn’t proper evidence before him relating to the risk of public disorder if Pistorius is granted bail. And so, he has been granted bail.