Masipa cites Warren Vorster case in Pistorius sentencing

In 2009 Vorster was found guilty of culpable homicide after he shot and killed a 12-year-old boy.

Judge Thokozile Masipa during sentencing of Oscar Pistorius at the High Court in Pretoria on 21 October 2014. Picture: Pool.

JOHANNESBURG - When Judge Thokozile Masipa sentenced Oscar Pistorius to five years in prison for the culpable homicide of Reeva Steenkamp, she referred to the Warren Vorster case.

In 2009 Vorster was found guilty of culpable homicide after he fired a hunting rifle in the direction of 12-year-old Kgopotso Ramolefe.

Vorster accidentally shot and killed the boy after the youngster's grandmother warned him an intruder was trying to break into her room.

The 35-year-old said he saw a shadow in the room and fired what was meant to be a warning shot.

The court heard when police arrived they found Vorster huddled over the boy trying to revive him.

When Vorster took to the stand his advocate read out a sworn statement on his behalf.

In it, Vorster said he was devastated and regretted shooting the boy who he claimed he was very fond of.

During sentencing arguments in that case, social worker Annette Vergeer testified that Vorster was an appropriate candidate for correctional supervision rather than jail time. She said the emphasis of Vorster's punishment should focus on neglect and not intention.

Interestingly, Vergeer was also the probation officer called by Pistorius's defence team to testify in mitigation of sentencing.

Vorster was sentenced to three years, with five years suspended, on condition that he was not again convicted of culpable homicide caused by an assault during imprisonment and one year community service.

Today Judge Masipa said the two cases had some similarities, but that there were important distinguishing features.

In the Vorster matter the accused did not know there was a person behind the door, while in the Pistorius case he knew someone was in the toilet.

In the Voster case only one shot was fired, while Pistorius fired four shots.

In the Vorster matter the aim was to frighten the intruder, while Pistorius's aim was to shoot the intruder.

In the Vorster matter the perceived intruder had room to escape, while in the Pistorius matter, the deceased had no room to escape.

Masipa stated therefore that the sentence given to Vorster would not be appropriate for Pistorius.

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