Published: Tuesday 21st October 2014 by The News Editor
Oscar Pistorius has been jailed for five years for killing his girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp – but he could be out of prison after less than a year.
The amputee athlete , known as the Blade Runner, stood staring straight ahead as Judge Thokozile Masipa announced his punishment for shooting dead the model on Valentine’s Day last year.
Pistorius, 27, was also given a suspended three-year sentence for a firearms offence.
The judge handed down an immediate prison term for the charge of culpable homicide, saying she believed a non-custodial sentence would “send the wrong message to the community”.
Following the hearing a member of Pistorius’s legal team claimed he is likely to serve a sixth of the sentence – around 10 months – in jail before being held under house arrest.
As she left court, the victim’s mother, June Steenkamp, was asked by reporters about suggestions that Pistorius would not serve the full five years in prison.
She said: “It doesn’t matter, he’s going to pay something.” Asked if she thought justice had been served, she said: “Yes.”
The model’s father, Barry, who suffered a stroke after her death, said: “We are satisfied.”
The jailed athlete’s uncle, Arnold Pistorius, said outside court that it had been a “harrowing 20 months”.
“This has been an incredibly hard, painful process for everyone involved,” he said. ” We are all emotionally drained and exhausted.”
He also hit out at the prosecution case.
“We said from the beginning that the state tried to force a puzzle into a position of pre-meditated murder,” he said. “When they realised the fact that it didn’t fit, they changed this case to a mosaic when everything can opportunistically fit everywhere.”
He said the family accepted the sentence. “Oscar will embrace this opportunity to pay back to society.”
He added: “I hope Oscar will start his own healing process as he walks down the path of restoration.”
Press Association Sport understands the six-time Paralympic champion will be ineligible for athletic competition until he has served the full sentence.
It means he will not be free to compete in International Paralympic Committee events until 2019 but in theory he could return for Tokyo 2020.
Pistorius killed Ms Steenkamp, 29, in the early hours of February 14 2013 when he fired his 9mm pistol four times through the closed toilet door at his luxury home. He insisted he thought he was firing at an intruder.
The courtroom was packed for the culmination of a case that has attracted intense scrutiny around the world. Interest was heightened by a ruling allowing some parts to be screened live on television.
After a summary of the evidence in the case and related legal issues lasting more than an hour, the judge said: “Having regard to the circumstances of the matter, I am of the view that a non-custodial sentence would send the wrong message to the community.
“On the other hand, a long sentence would also not be appropriate either as it would lack the element of mercy.”
Asking Pistorius to stand, she said: “The following… is what I consider to be a sentence that is fair and just, both to society and to the accused.”
Earlier, the judge said South Africa had “long moved on” from an era of “an eye for an eye” justice.
She described Ms Steenkamp as “vivacious and full of life”. The court heard her parents June and Barry in particular were “not coping very well without their daughter”.
Judge Masipa said: “The loss of life cannot be reversed. Nothing I say or do today can reverse what happened on February 14 2013 to the deceased and to her family.
“Hopefully, this judgment on sentence shall provide some sort of closure for the family and all concerned so that they can move on with their lives.”
She also said: “It would be a sad day for this country if an impression were to be created that there was one law for the poor and disadvantaged, and another for the rich and famous.”
She said that during the course of the trial she had a feeling of unease as she listened to “one witness after another” place an “over-emphasis on the accused’s vulnerability”.
She said that while Pistorius is vulnerable, he has “excellent coping skills”, and pointed out that he went on to compete against able-bodied athletes, but she said: “For some reason, that picture remains obscured in the background.”
Judge Masipa criticised as “slapdash” evidence given during the trial which questioned the ability of prisons in South Africa to cope with Pistorius’s disability.
The judge said that while the Department of Correctional Services was not perfect, it had made strides and was “moving with the times”.
She said Pistorius would not present the department with an “insurmountable challenge”.
Pistorius had “helped change the general public’s perceptions of disabled people”, Judge Masipa told the court in Pretoria.
She added: “His impact on others was worldwide … but it ought to be put into perspective.”
Last month the judge dismissed claims that Pistorius intentionally killed Ms Steenkamp, saying Pistorius could not be convicted of either pre-meditated or second-degree murder.
But he was convicted of culpable homicide – the South African equivalent of the UK’s manslaughter charge – as well as a gun charge relating to an incident in a restaurant in January last year.
Referring to the night of Ms Steenkamp’s death, the judge said today that on his own account Pistorius thought there was an intruder in the toilet cubicle.
“Using a lethal weapon, a loaded firearm, the accused fired not one but four shots into the toilet door,” she said.
She said mitigating factors included Pistorius’s apparent remorse and his attempt to apologise to his victim’s family.
Pistorius, who the court heard has no income and no property after selling it during the course of the trial, was seen being driven away in a police van with barred windows. He is expected to be held in the hospital section of a prison in Pretoria.
Published: Tuesday 21st October 2014 by The News Editor