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Pistorius trial puts South African justice system in the spotlight

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Now that details of 27 year old Oscar Pistorius’s first few days in incarceration at Kgosi Mampuru II prison in Pretoria are emerging it is opportune to evaluate the impact of the trial on ordinary people and Unisa's student body in particular.

The pendulum of public opinion swung in often surprising ways over the past few months as proceedings in the High Court in Pretoria were broadcast live worldwide. Students who tuned into the trial have not been shy to offer their views. Second year law student Phindile Mashele says she enjoyed watching the law in action and how theory was applied in practice.

Another Unisa Law Student, Alfred Moitsi is cynical following the outcome of the Pistorius trial. Unflinchingly he told, "I believe the justice system protects the rich leaving the poor in a more vulnerable condition."

As expected Judge Thokozile Masipa (BA (Social Work) 1974 LLB (1990) Unisa) came under some criticism during the trial as did counsel for the state and defence.

Wardle College of Law CEO Brenda Wardle (LLB, LLM Unisa) says that differences in opinion on Judge Masipa’s findings are not going to have an effect on perceptions of her alma mater because graduates and even students have their own way of understanding and grasping legal principles. Wardle told assuredly that "If indeed Judge Masipa erred it is not as a result of deficiencies in her education."

She added that she believes that there is minimal risk of the Pistorius trial creating false impressions about the general speed of a trial and conduct of officers of the court among other things. Wardle is also the author of "To kill a fragile rose (The State’s case against Oscar Leonard Pistorius)". It is the only book on the Pistorius trial written by a legally qualified person and is due for release in the next few months.

An appeal of Pistorius' five year sentence for the culpable homicide of Reeva Steenkamp is possible although unlikely according to Johannesburg Attorney June Marks who hopes that the end of this gripping trial is by no means a shifting of the spotlight from the goings on in our justice system.

Last Updated on Thursday, 15 January 2015 10:20