DAVID HUTCHINSON 778-839-5442 DAVID.HUTCHINSON@CENTURY21.CA
A judge in Pretoria, South Africa, has granted bail for Olympic athlete Oscar Pistorius, who is charged with one count of premeditated murder in the death of his girlfriend.
Pistorius's family members and supporters shouted "Yes!" when Chief Magistrate Desmond Nair announced his decision to a packed courtroom Friday. Relatives hugged and prayed, lingering in the courtroom even after Pistorius was escorted out
Nair handed down the ruling on the fourth day of a hearing to consider the athlete's application to be set free pending his trial. The judge set bail at 1 million rand ($114,700 Cdn) in cash and guarantees.
Pistorius can be released because he is not a flight risk, the judge said.
The double-amputee athlete, known by the nickname "Blade Runner" because of his carbon-fibre prosthetic running blades, is accused of deliberately shooting Reeva Steenkamp through a closed bathroom door at his home in the early morning hours of Feb. 14. He says he thought he was firing at a burglar.
"[Pistorius] is not a flight risk, he does not show a propensity to commit violence and he won't interfere with state witnesses," Nair told the court.
The judge also said there is no "proper evidence" that there will be public outrage or public disorder if Pistorius is released.
Pistorius was ordered to surrender his passport and firearms under the bail conditions. He is also prohibited from returning to his upscale home in a gated community in the eastern suburbs of Pretoria, where the killing of Steenkamp took place.
In addition, he is not allowed near any witnesses and must report to a police station twice a week. He was also banned from drinking alcohol while awaiting trial.
Defence lawyer Barry Roux told reporters the defence team was satisfied with the bail.
However, he said it was the first time he'd ever heard a magistrate ban someone from drinking alcohol while on bail.
There were no cameras allowed in the courtoom, but Nair allowed an audio media feed while he talked for an hour and 45 minutes, recapping evidence presented during the hearing and explaining his reasons for allowing bail.
Nair said his decision was made easier because Pistorius "reached out" to offer his version of events in a sworn affidavit.
"I come to the conclusion that the accused has made a case to be released on bail," the judge said.
The Olympian's next court appearance was set for June 4.
Following the ruling, a spokesman for the Pistorius family issued a statement:
"Although we are obviously relieved that oscar has been granted bail, this is still a very sad time for the family of Reeva and for us all. We are grateful that the magistrate recognized the validity and the strength of our application. As the family, we are convinced that Oscar's version of what happened on that terrible night will proven to be true."