Oscar Pistorius has been sentenced to five years in prison for culpable homicide in the death of his girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp on Valentine’s day last year.
The six-time Paralympic gold medallist was also sentenced to a further three years – wholly suspended – for negligently firing a gun under the table at Tasha’s restaurant in 2013 as his seven-month trial finally came to a conclusion today at the Pretoria High Court in South Africa.
In her sentencing, Judge Thokozile Masipa ruled a non-custodial sentence would send the wrong sentence to the community, but a long sentence would not be appropriate because it would appear to lack mercy.
Judge Masipa said the court accepts that Pistorius wanted deceased to live and explained how the law deals with the interests of society.
She said that ‘people should be punished, and in deserving cases punished harshly…but general public might not know difference between punishment and vengeance’.
“Society can’t always get what they want, sometimes society can’t differentiate between punishment and vengeance…retribution, from a legal point of view, is not the same as vengeance,” said Masipa.
“At time deceased met her death she was young vivacious and full of life. It’s impossible to deal with the interests of society without referencing the deceased and her family.
“Nothing I say or do today can reverse what happened on 14 February 2013. The loss of life cannot be reversed – hopefully the sentence today can provide closure for the family and all concerned,” she added.
The Judge also said the court accepted the evidence of Acting National Correctional Services Commissioner Zacharia Modise on the conditions of South African prisons for those with disabilities.
Masipa said it would not be the first time correctional services has to deal with disabled persons, and she was satisfied prisons can deal with inmates with disabilities. She also said Pistorius has excellent coping skills.
After the judgement, Judge Masipa thanked both the defense and prosecution lawyers and the gallery. “In general I was very pleased with the conduct of everyone in this case,” she said..
Oscar Pistorius, known as the ‘Blade Runner’ because of his carbon-fibre prosthetic, wiped his eyes as the judge handed down the prison sentence. He shook the hand of his uncle Arnold and disappeared down into the cells.
Meanwhile the Pistorius family have confirmed they will not appeal Judge Masipa’s judgment.
In a press conference few hours after the sentencing, Oscar’s uncle, Arnold Pistorius, slammed the State for ‘keeping a cloud of premeditated murder over this case for as long as possible’ and asked the media to give his family ‘some degree of dignity and privacy’.
“It has been a harrowing 20 months. We are all emotionally drained,” said Arnold Pistorius. “We accept the judgment. Oscar will embrace this opportunity to pay back to society.”
“As an uncle, I hope Oscar will start his own healing process as he walks down path of restoration. After twenty months of relentless trial, I ask you to let us move forward and give us dignity and privacy,” Uncle Arnold added.
The Steenkamp family lawyer, Dup de Bruyn, told Sky News Alex Crawford that June Steenkamp was satisfied with the sentence. He said it provided June with some sort of closure.