Oscar Pistorius arriving at court. Photo: Getty
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Oscar Pistorius found guilty of culpable homicide

The South African athlete has been cleared of premeditated and second-degree murder.

Oscar Pistorius has been found guilty of culpable homicide. He was yesterday cleared of the murder of his girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp.

Judge Thokozile Masipa ruled that the prosecution had not provided sufficient evidence for a conviction of pre-meditated murder. Steenkamp was shot three times at Pistorius’s home in Pretoria on Valentine’s Day 2013.

“The evidence failed to prove the accused had intention [to kill],” said Masipa. “The accused had the intention to shoot at the person behind the door, not to kill.”

She also stated that a “reasonable person” would not have fired the shots, and that Pistorius had acted “too hastily and used excessive force. In the circumstances, it is clear his conduct was negligent”.

The athlete was also found guilty on one firearms charge (that of negligently handling a firearm that went off in a restaurant), but acquitted on two others. He could face up to 15 years in prison from the culpable homicide charge. However, there is no minimum sentence for this offence.

Update 12 September, 12:09pm:

The judge has granted Oscar Pistorius bail until his sentencing on 13 October, meaning that he can walk out of the court with his family today.

It also looks likely that he will be permitted to resume his athletic career. Craig Spence, director of media and communications for the International Paralympic Committee, has told BBC Radio 5 Live:

Oscar’s done a great deal for the Paralympic movement. He’s been an inspiration to millions, but obviously his priority now is to see [what] the judge decides. And then if he wishes to resume his athletics career then we wouldn’t step in his way – we would allow him to compete again in the future.”

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Nicola Sturgeon is betting on Brexit becoming real before autumn 2018

Second independence referendum plans have been delayed but not ruled out.

Three months after announcing plans for a second independence referendum, and 19 days after losing a third of her Scottish National Party MPs, Scotland’s First Minister Nicola Sturgeon booted the prospect of a second independence referendum into the heather. 

In a statement at Holyrood, Sturgeon said she felt her responsibility as First Minister “is to build as much unity and consensus as possible” and that she had consulted “a broad spectrum of voices” on independence.

She said she had noted a “commonality” among the views of the majority, who were neither strongly pro or anti-independence, but “worry about the uncertainty of Brexit and worry about the clarity of what it means”. Some “just want a break from making political decisions”.

This, she said had led her to the conclusion that there should be a referendum reset. Nevertheless: "It remains my view and the position of this government that at the end of this Brexit process the Scottish people should have a choice about the future of our country." 

This "choice", she suggested, was likely to be in autumn 2018 – the same time floated by SNP insiders before the initial announcement was made. 

The Scottish Lib Dem leader Willie Rennie responded: “The First Minister wishes to call a referendum at a time of her choosing. So absolutely nothing has changed." In fact, there is significance in the fact Sturgeon will no longer be pursuing the legislative process needed for a second referendum. Unlike Theresa May, say, she has not committed herself to a seemingly irreversable process.

Sturgeon’s demand for a second independence referendum was said to be partly the result of pressure from the more indy-happy wing of the party, including former First Minister Alex Salmond. The First Minister herself, whose constituency is in the former Labour stronghold of Glasgow, has been more cautious, and is keenly aware that the party can lose if it appears to be taking the electorate for granted. 

In her speech, she pledged to “put our shoulder to the wheel” in Brexit talks, and improve education and the NHS. Yet she could have ruled out a referendum altogether, and she did not. 

Sturgeon has framed this as a “choice” that is reasonable, given the uncertainties of Brexit. Yet as many of Scotland’s new Labour MPs can testify, opposition to independence on the doorstep is just as likely to come from a desire to concentrate on public services and strengthening a local community as it is attachment to a more abstract union. The SNP has now been in power for 10 years, and the fact it suffered losses in the 2017 general election reflects the perception that it is the party not only for independence, but also the party of government.

For all her talk of remaining in the single market, Sturgeon will be aware that it will be the bread-and-butter consequences of Brexit, like rising prices, and money redirected towards Northern Ireland, that will resonate on the doorstep. She will also be aware that roughly a third of SNP voters opted for Brexit

The general election result suggests discontent over local or devolved issues is currently overriding constitutional matters, whether UK-wide or across the EU. Now Brexit talks with a Tory-DUP government have started, this may change. But if it does not, Sturgeon will be heading for a collision with voter choice in the autumn of 2018. 

Julia Rampen is the digital news editor of the New Statesman (previously editor of The Staggers, The New Statesman's online rolling politics blog). She has also been deputy editor at Mirror Money Online and has worked as a financial journalist for several trade magazines. 

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