Updated 15 October 2014

Oscar has never shown any real remorse

Oscar has never shown genuine remorse. True remorse requires you to take full responsibility for what you did, and to express regret not only when the cameras are rolling.


If you want to kill someone, do it in South Africa!

Simulated remorse

Our criminal justice system is inefficient and ineffective, from apprehension to trial, and biased in every way in favour of perpetrators and not victims. It appears that the sentencing phase of this trial will be a further reflection of this sorry state of affairs.

Read: Ex-girlfriend slams Oscar as violent maniac

The judgement by judge Masipa suggests that she is sentimental and taken in by simulated remorse. Why are people so hugely naïve to believe that “snot en trane” represents true remorse? Oscar has never shown genuine remorse. True remorse requires you to take full responsibility for what you did, and to express regret not only when the cameras are rolling. True remorse is not just about you; it includes real moral anguish and a full realisation of what you have done – not at how the situation will affect you. You display commitment to genuine personal change, to ensure that this will never happen again.


Excuses are still being offered, like: “He’s already been punished enough!” No, he hasn’t been punished at all! He has just experienced a few unpleasant but inevitable consequences of what he chose to do. Actions have consequences.

“It’s been so stressful for him!” The effects of shooting people certainly are stressful – but also rather easy to avoid.

“Shame, he’s suffered major financial losses!” So what! Sponsors are fickle, and of course you’re vulnerable if you damage your public reputation. Oscar chose to employ expensive lawyers and an elaborate and expensive way of trying to disprove his guilt.  And he has a very wealthy and generous uncle taking care of him.

“What about his disability?” His disability is irrelevant to sentence. His actual medical needs are minimal and can easily be accommodated in prison. 

“He’s a first offender!” That should be irrelevant. For a parking offense, maybe, but certainly not when you kill someone! Otherwise we should all be allowed a “first killing” scot free.    

Lore Harzenberg, educational psychologist

Oscar was described by Dr Harzenberg as "a broken man, who has lost everything". She could not possibly be more fiercely biased in his favour, and remembers only endless tears and all the things he has lost.

We should all stop assuming that there’s this high level of remorse, folks. Oscar is always seething with self-pity, but has never shown signs of genuine remorse. You can’t feel remorse for something you still insist you’re not guilty of – and it’s not remorse when you’re only really sorry for yourself. 

All they apparently discussed was what he lost, and how bad he feels. It’s obscene to ignore the suffering of Reeva and her family, and whine about Oscar’s unpleasant time standing on trial, and that it cost him oodles of money.

Read: Why we are so glued to the Oscar trial

One also needs to note that she is not a clinical psychologist – with the intensive training in diagnosis and treatment that would imply. Her PhD was not clinical, nor relevant to this case. This is highly relevant, as her evidence showed a marked lack of the basic behaviours one would expect of a trained clinician. She spoke of sessions in which he wept and she hugged him, which is something many schools of psychotherapy would frown upon. 

The fact that she sat in court with him, and wept when he took off his prostheses, is a sign of gross emotional over-involvement and counter-transference, showing excessive emotional involvement with a client she should be emotionally neutral about. This behaviour is unprofessional and unhelpful!   

She is also a bit dodgy about her qualifications. She describes herself as a trained trauma counsellor, but never revealed where or by whom she was trained. There is no formal qualification in that field in South Africa.  

Dr Harzenberg revealed an inappropriate approach to therapy. Naturally you need to respond to and raise the issues a patient brings, but no good therapist refuses to raise anything else. If news reports contradict what he says to you, you’ve a duty to raise these with him, so as to better understand him, and to hear his point of view. It’s short-sighted and incompetent to refuse to say anything that might upset or challenge your client.

It’s also unprofessional bias to consider nothing but the person’s own point of view. Considering everything, you might accept his version of events, but you must consider all possibilities. She made amazingly odd claims, e.g. that “his version has never ever changed”, when it sometimes changed every few minutes. With long pauses, she seemed to be avoiding frank answers to questions to look for one that would most benefit her friend. She uncritically accepted everything he said, and studiously ignored everything he didn’t choose to mention.

Was Mr Maringa joking?

Maringa, a correctional services social worker described Oscar as a "co-operative" person. He is of the opinion that Pistorius should be sentenced to three years of "correctional supervision” and carry out community service, such as cleaning work at a museum in Pretoria.

Read: Pistorius has no mental defects

State prosecutor Gerrie Nel described these recommendations as "shockingly inappropriate" and "no sentence”.

It is obvious that he does not understand the law or the facts of this case; he obviously had not read the judgement or the findings of the court, was unaware of important parts of them, and insisted he remembered aspects which were never in the judgement. He even, amazingly, confused the trivial accidental gunshot in the restaurant with the savage killing in the bathroom!  And he didn’t turn hair when his gross error was pointed out. It’s flatly terrifying that anyone like this could ever be in charge of criminals on probation, or that such testimony could be accepted in any court.  

He reminded me of the “Spanish Inquisition” episode of the classic Monty Python series, where fanatical clerics would torture an old woman by making her sit in a comfy chair with only a cup of coffee at 11 o’clock, and perhaps poke her with soft cushions. Apparently this is how Oscar should be punished . . . 

Read more:

Is it worth sending Oscar to jail?
Will Oscar get 'special treatment' in jail?
Judge Masipa 'reads' Oscar's mind

Image: Crocodile tears from Shutterstock

Professor MA Simpson is Health24's CyberShrink. A South African psychiatrist, he qualified in medicine and in psychiatry in Britain. He has been a senior academic, researcher, and Professor in several countries. Read more of his columns.




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