World | Africa

October 21, 2014

Oscar Pistorius Sentenced to 5 Years in Prison for Girlfriend's Death

Oscar Pistorius will spend his first night behind bars tonight, after he was sentenced to five years imprisonment for shooting and killing his girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp on Valentine's Day last year.

The Olympic athlete, dubbed the Blade Runner due to his prosthetics, has to spend at least one-sixth of his sentence behind bars before he become eligible for a sentence conversion – meaning he could be placed under house arrest in 10 months.

The judge also gave Pistorius a suspended sentence of three years for a weapons charge.

Pistorius was led to the court's holding cells after court adjourned, later scheduled to arrive at the Kgosi Mampuru II Prison in Pretoria. Acting National Correctional Services Commissioner Zach Modise assured the court last week that Pistorius would be kept in the prison complex's hospital section, to protect him from other prisoners – and the possibility of an attack.

Judge Thokozile Masipa kept the courtroom in suspense for more than an hour today before announcing her sentence, declaring that the sentence has to balance issues such as retribution, restorative justice, rehabilitation and the interest of society.

"A non-custodial sentence would send the wrong message to the community. But a long sentence would also not be appropriate, because it would lack mercy," she said.

Masipa rejected the defense's arguments that athlete’s vulnerability made him unsuitable for prison, saying he has demonstrated his ability to cope throughout his life.

"I heard witness after witness over-emphasizing the accused's vulnerability," she said, adding that "Yes, the accused is vulnerable, but he also has excellent coping skills... He really saw himself as disabled [but] worked hard....and became respected worldwide."

She said Pistorius has had an enormous impact on society.

"He gave this time and money to charities... and changed the public's perception of disabled people. This cannot be ignored and ought to be put into perspective," said Masipa.

The defense has already indicated that it would not appeal the sentence or conviction, while the state has 14 days to indicate if it will file an appeal.

 

Text by ABC News
 

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