First Person: Airing Pistorius evidence won't help do justice
Oscar Pistorius was abusive and possessive, his paranoia fuelled by illegal drugs. He snapped reading texts from his pregnant girlfriend's former Springbok boyfriend, smashed her skull with an implement before shooting her four times as she cowered behind a bathroom door. This is the sensational story presented to the world months before his trial – the trial that will decide if any of it was actually true.
If Oscar Pistorius was being tried in this country, I would be able to tell you what the charges were, of his denials, that he had been granted bail, when he was next due in court and his likely trial date.
By contrast, in South Africa almost any information is fair game, every titbit of speculation placed in the public forum, whether true or not.
As the world learnt of the fate of Reeva Steenkamp, South African police were openly rubbishing press suggestions Pistorius had accidentally shot his girlfriend, publicly calling this a case of premeditated murder.
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Shattering my post-London 2012 glow, I was dismayed to "learn" illegal steroids had been recovered, that Reeva's skull had been caved in and that a "bloodied cricket bat" was present.
The steroids evidence was presented at the bail hearing but, unforgivably, it was erroneous.
Police had not done their homework; the drugs were neither steroids nor illegal.
Magistrate Nel broadcast his bail decision to the world, including his serious misgivings about the credibility of Pistorius's case.
I am incredulous that the defence had put their case in the public domain and that the judge had publicly expressed misgivings about it at such an early stage of the process
On a charge of murder in England, the Crown Court bail hearing would have been held in private, lasted, at most, 30 minutes to an hour, and would not have been the subject of detailed press reporting.
Owing to our Contempt of Court Act, little more would be known by the time the matter came before a jury here, leaving them genuinely in a position to honour their oath to try the case according to the evidence presented in court.
The jury system in the UK is honest, not easily abused and has withstood the test of history. It is the proper way to do justice.
South Africa abolished jury trial in 1969. One judge will have to perform the mental gymnastics required to sift the evidence from the prejudicial pre-trial chatter.
Philip Gibbs is a barrister specialising in crime and sports law at KCH, Garden Square, Leicester.
He blogs at gibbsbarrister.blogspot.com