Pistorius released on bail, to launch appeal against murder conviction

Former South African track star Oscar Pistorius arrives at the Gauteng Division of the High Court, Pretoria, South Africa, on Dec 8, 2015. PHOTO:
Former South African track star Oscar Pistorius arrives at the Gauteng Division of the High Court, Pretoria, South Africa, on Dec 8, 2015. PHOTO:PHOTO: EPA

PRETORIA (AFP) - Former Paralympic champion Oscar Pistorius was released on bail on Tuesday (Dec 8) after his conviction for his girlfriend’s murder, as his lawyers said they would launch an appeal to South Africa’s constitutional court.

“The case is postponed until April 16, 2016. The applicant is released on bail of 10,000 rand (S$967),” judge president Aubrey Ledwaba told Pretoria High Court.

Ledwaba said Pistorius would continue to be under house arrest, but would be able to leave the property in Pretoria with permission from the investigating officer. Pistorius will be put under electronic monitoring, the judge added.

Pistorius's lawyer had earlier told the hearing that he will launch an appeal against his murder conviction to South Africa's highest court.

Judges last week found him guilty of murder and overturned his earlier conviction on the lesser charge of culpable homicide for shooting dead Reeva Steenkamp in 2013.

"(Pistorius's bail) affidavit deals... with the basis for the application for leave to appeal to the Constitutional Court," Barry Roux told the High Court in Pretoria.

Pistorius, 29, was released from jail in October and is under house arrest in Pretoria after serving one year of his five-year prison sentence for culpable homicide - the equivalent of manslaughter.

His lawyers had earlier said he could not afford further legal battles after paying huge bills.

The court in Pretoria adjourned briefly to consider Pistorius's bail application.

"If he is given bail, it may come with different conditions," criminal lawyer Martin Hood told AFP ahead of the hearing.

The double-amputee sprinter, known as the "Blade Runner" because of the prosthetic legs he uses on the track, now faces a minimum 15-year jail sentence for murder, although the term could be shorter due to mitigating factors such being a first-time offender.

Pistorius killed Steenkamp, a model and law graduate, at his home in Pretoria, saying he mistook her for an intruder when he shot four times through the locked door of his bedroom toilet.

The South African Supreme Court of Appeal last week changed his conviction to murder and sent the case for re-sentencing, saying the original trial judge had made "fundamental" errors in her ruling last year.

The appeal decision, read by judge Eric Leach, said that it was "inconceivable that a rational person could have believed he was entitled to fire at this person with a heavy calibre firearm".

No date has yet been announced for his re-sentencing, which is expected early next year.

Last month, Pistorius made his first appearance in public since leaving jail when he reported for community service at a Pretoria police station.

He killed Steenkamp at the peak of his fame, and he has since lost his glittering sports career, lucrative contracts and status as a global role model for the disabled.

"I wanted respect for my daughter's life, and that's what I got," Reeva's mother June Steenkamp said shortly after the murder conviction.