Does the Application of the Blom Rules Entitle Oscar Pistorius to an Acquittal?

Authors Tshepo Bogosi Mosaka

ISSN: 1996-2193
Affiliations: PhD Candidate (Nottingham)
Source: Stellenbosch Law Review, Volume 29 Issue 1, 2018, p. 146 – 158


Oscar Pistorius shot and killed his girlfriend on a warm Valentine ‘s Day morning in 2013 and was charged with murder. After having been acquitted on that charge (and convicted on the competent verdict of culpable homicide) by the High Court, the Supreme Court of Appeal ("SCA") overturned this finding and convicted him of murder. The main fact in issue was the intent of the accused and the state’s evidence in this regard was "purely circumstantial". In defence of this fact in issue, the accused alleged that he had acted in putative private defence. As such, this note explores four important points. Firstly, that although not even properly referred to by the High Court, nor the SCA, the Blom rules had to be applied in the assessment of the weight of circumstantial evidence adduced. Secondly, that the SCA incorrectly rejected the "intruder inference" raised by the accused’s evidence without any application of the Blom rules whatsoever. Thirdly, this note establishes the reasonableness of the "intruder inference", without taking anything away from the cogency of the "intention inference" drawn by the SCA. Finally, it is argued that the reasonableness of the intruder inference and a correct application of the Blom rules at the very least raises the question whether the SCA was correct in convicting the accused of murder. Although a direct answer is not provided to this question, this note merely stresses the importance of this question and the possibility that the SCA’s decision may well be an appealable misdirection.