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Scotland votes 'no' to independence in historic referendum

By Laura Smith-Spark, Euan McKirdy and Nic Robertson CNN.

Glasgow, Scotland (CNN)

 -- Scotland will remain part of the United Kingdom -- along with England, Wales and Northern Ireland -- following a historic referendum vote.

A majority of voters rejected the possibility of Scotland breaking away and becoming an independent nation.

UK Prime Minister David Cameron welcomed Scotland's decision in a televised statement outside 10 Downing Street, saying it was a clear result.

"Like millions of other people, I am delighted," he said.

Cameron said he would have been heartbroken to see the United Kingdom broken up -- but paid tribute to the efforts of both sides in the campaign.

"We hear you," he said to those who voted for independence, adding this was an opportunity to change the way people in the United Kingdom are governed, and "change it for the better."

His government has delivered on devolution in the past and will deliver on it again, Cameron said.
A "new and fair settlement" will be created for Scotland and the other countries of the United Kingdom, he said.

Scottish First Minister Alex Salmond admitted defeat in an earlier televised statement -- and urged the rest of Scotland to do the same.

He thanked Scotland "for 1.6 million votes for Scottish independence" and said the turnout -- which electoral officials said was 84.6% from an electorate of more than 4.2 million -- was one of the highest in the democratic world for any such vote.

The final result in the referendum was 1,617,989 votes in favor of independence from the United Kingdom to 2,001,926 against.

This means the pro-union camp won by a margin of just over 10%, with 55.25% of the vote to 44.65% -- a much wider gap than than opinion polls in the final days leading up to the vote had suggested.

The result means the main political parties in Westminster -- and many people across the United Kingdom and Scotland -- can breathe a collective sigh of relief that the threat of a breakup of a centuries-old union is over. However, many on the "Yes" side will be bitterly disappointed.

Source: CNN

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Why wasn't Oscar Pistorius convicted of murder?

After a six-month trial, Oscar Pistorius is cleared of murder but convicted of culpable homicide.

Oscar Pistorius was today convicted of culpable homicide by Judge Thokozile Masipa after being cleared of murdering Reeva Steenkamp.

The prosecution accused Pistorius of premeditated murder, claiming he had deliberately shot his girlfriend Steenkamp after an argument on Valentine's Day last year.

However, Judge Masipa told the court that the state had failed to prove "beyond reasonable doubt" that Pistorius is guilty of premeditated murder. "There are just not enough facts to support such a finding," she said.

Masipa said the evidence the state offered on the charge was "purely circumstantial".

Based on the objective facts, such as phone records, she accepted the defence's timeline of events that the shots were fired at around 3.12am. This meant that some of the state witnesses who claimed they heard a woman screaming after the time Steenkamp was shot must have been "genuinely mistaken", she said.

The judge also said that the WhatsApp messages between Pistorius and Steenkamp did not "prove anything" and the evidence suggesting Steenkamp had eaten two hours before she died was "inconclusive".

Masipa then turned to the lesser charge of murder. She said there was "no doubt" that when Pistorius fired shots at the door he "acted unlawfully".

However, she said that the evidence does not support the state's case that this was "murder dolus eventualis", a legal term for when the perpetrator foresees the possibility of his action causing death and persists regardless.

Masipa accepted that Pistorius believed Steenkamp was in the bedroom, noting that this part of his account had remained consistent since the moments after the shooting. It is "highly improbable the accused would have made this up so quickly", she said.

She described Pistorius as a "very poor" and "evasive" witness, but said it did not mean he was necessarily guilty. "Clearly he did not subjectively foresee this as a possibility that he would kill the person behind the door – let alone the deceased – as he thought she was in the bedroom," she said.

Yesterday, some legal experts suggested that the state might be able to appeal the murder ruling. Masipa explained why Pistorius did not foresee that he would kill Steenkamp, but did not "explain convincingly" why she believed he did not foresee that he would have killed the perceived intruder, says Pierre De Vos, who teaches constitutional law at the University of Cape Town.

Writing in South Africa's Daily Maverick, De Vos says: "Given all the evidence presented in court about Pistorius's knowledge of guns and what the bullets he used would do to a person, it is unlikely in the extreme that Pistorius did not foresee that the person behind the door (who he might have thought was an intruder) would be killed." 

Today, Masipa offered a legal explanation as to why she could only convict Pistorius on culpable homicide rather than murder. A "reasonable" person with Pistorius's disabilities would have foreseen that shooting into the door may have killed the person inside, she said. However, South African law warns against automatically assuming that because a perpetrator "should have" foreseen the consequences of his actions that he actually did.

She pointed to JM Burchell's General Principles of Criminal Law, which states that "the courts have warned against any tendency to draw the inference of objective foresight too easily". Following previous cases, the courts have been told to "guard against proceeding too readily from 'ought to have foreseen' to 'must have foreseen'".

The onus was on the state to prove beyond reasonable doubt that Pistorius foresaw the fatal consequences of his actions when he shot at the door. Masipa said the prosecution failed to do so.

Read more: http://www.theweek.co.uk/world-news/oscar-pistorius/60378/why-wasnt-oscar-pistorius-convicted-of-murder#ixzz3D5xbo7wO










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Pistorius acquitted of premeditated murder

"Judge Thokozile Masipa says Oscar Pistorius was not guilty of premeditated murder, but culpable homicide has not been ruled out as a verdict."

South African Judge Thokozile Masipa said on Thursday that the state had failed to prove that Oscar Pistorius was guilty of premeditated murder when he shot and killed his girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp last year.

“The accused therefore cannot be found guilty of murder dolus eventualis [legal intent] ... that however is not the end of the matter as culpable homicide is a competent verdict,” she said, as Pistorius sobbed.

“The state has not proved beyond reasonable doubt that the accused is guilty of premeditated murder. There are just not enough facts to support such a finding,” she said.

‘Poor witness’

Masipa found that Pistorius was a “very poor witness” and contradicted himself on the stand.

“During his evidence, he seemed composed and logical ... [but] under cross-examination, he lost his composure ...[and it seemed] the accused was suffering by enormous emotional stress and was traumatised by reliving the incident,” she said.

“The accused was, among other things, an evasive witness.”

Masipa noted that he failed to listen properly to questions, and that certain parts of his testimony did not make sense. She questioned why four shots were fired instead of one, and said Pistorius was “clearly not candid” with the court. Masipa said it was understandable that a person with a disability such as Pistorius’s would feel vulnerable when threatened by danger.

“This court is satisfied that at the relevant time, the accused could distinguish between right and wrong,” she said.

Claim rejected

The claim that Pistorius made, that he did not think he could kill someone was rejected by the judge, and she said: “This assertion is inconsistent with someone who shot without thinking,” she read from her judgment. “I shall revert to this later.” 

She was referring to Pistorius’s evidence that “he never thought he could kill someone in the toilet”, and that this only occurred to him after Steenkamp had died. She was summarising Pistorius’s evidence. She read extracts from what he had told the court: “He did not have time to think”, “he fired shots at the door but did not do so deliberately” and “he did not aim at the door but the firearm was pointed at the door”. 

Masipa said Pistorius had told the court he was not ready to discharge his gun. However, the safety catch on his gun was off. 

Pistorius (27), is accused of murdering Steenkamp in his Pretoria townhouse on Valentine’s Day last year. He shot her through the locked door of his toilet, apparently thinking she was an intruder about to emerge and attack him. She was hit in the hip, arm and head. 

Cricket bat

Masipa said earlier it was clear the sounds most of the witnesses heard were Pistorius using his cricket bat to break down his toilet door to get to a dying Steenkamp, and not the shots he fired. “It is clear from the rest of the evidence that these were actually the sound of the cricket bat against the door,” she said. 

Defence witness and Pistorius’s immediate neighbour Eontle Hillary Nhlengethwa said she was woken by a man screaming, but did not hear shots fired. Masipa said witnesses heard three loud bangs, which was from the cricket bat, and this was “consistent with the version” of Pistorius. 

She rejected evidence from Pistorius’s neighbour Estelle van der Merwe. The court could not link what she had heard in the early hours of February 14 last year to the events at Pistorius’s home. –

Key quotes from Judge Masipa

AP has compiled a selection of key quotes from the judge:

• On the state's case

"The state clearly has not proved beyond reasonable doubt that the accused is guilty of premeditated murder."
"Viewed in its totality, the evidence failed to establish that the accused had the requisite intention to kill the deceased, let alone with premeditation."
"The accused therefore cannot be found guilty of murder."

• On Pistorius's actions

"He took a conscious decision, he knew where he kept his firearm and he knew where his bathroom was. This is inconsistent with lack of criminal capacity."
"The intention to shoot however does not necessarily include the intention to kill."
"Clearly he did not subjectively foresee this as a possibility that he would kill the person behind the door."

• On Pistorius's own testimony

"The accused was a very poor witness."
"The accused was, amongst other things an evasive witness."
"He failed to listen properly to questions put to him under cross-examination, giving the impression that he was more worried by the impact his answers might cause rather than the questions asked."

• On testimony from neighbours

"Most witnesses had their facts wrong."
"I am of the view that they failed to separate what they knew personally or what they heard from other people or what they gathered from the media."

On the relevance of documented rows and expressions of love between Pistorius and Steenkamp:
"Neither the evidence of the loving relationship or a relationship turned sour can assist this court to determine whether the accused had the requisite intention to kill the deceased."

NB: The judge in the Oscar Pistorius trial rules out murder, but leaves it to Friday to announce whether the athlete is guilty of culpable homicide.

Source: Reuters, The Telegraph, BBC, Sapa

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