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Pistorius' six-year sentence for murder of girlfriend is criticised as too lenient

By Christopher Torchia and Gerald Imray

Published 07/07/2016

Oscar Pistorius in court yesterday
Oscar Pistorius in court yesterday
Oscar Pistorius with murdered Reeva Steenkamp

Oscar Pistorius has been sentenced to six years in prison for the murder of his girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp - and the sentence was immediately criticised as not harsh enough.

South Africa has a minimum sentence of 15 years in prison for murder unless an offender can show why it should be reduced.

Judge Thokozile Masipa said those “substantial and compelling circumstances” did exist in the case of the world-famous runner, who shot Ms Steenkamp multiple times through a toilet door in his home in 2013.

Judge Masipa called the double-amputee Olympian a “fallen hero”. Pistorius will be eligible for parole after three years. Prosecutors can appeal for a heavier sentence.

One of Pistorius’ defence lawyers said they would not appeal against the decision. “The family accepts the judgment,” Anneliese Burgess, a spokeswoman for the Pistorius family, said outside the courtroom. Prosecutors did not immediately say if they will challenge the sentence.

In deciding to deviate from the minimum of 15 years, Judge Masipa said Pistorius was a “good candidate for rehabilitation” and was unlikely to reoffend.

He’ll be eligible for parole after serving half the sentence under new legislation in South Africa, legal expert Marius du Toit said.

Pistorius was calm after the sentence was announced, embracing his aunt and tearful sister before being led to a cell ahead of being taken to prison.

Ms Steenkamp’s parents Barry and June were also in the courtroom, which was packed with relatives of both families.

Judge Masipa noted that Pistorius used a lethal weapon in the killing and had fired four times — not once — through a closed toilet door in the early hours of Valentine’s Day three years ago.

She also spoke of the devastating effect the crime had on Ms Steenkamp’s family.

But she said there were mitigating factors, raising examples like Pistorius trying to save Ms Steenkamp’s life in the immediate aftermath of the shooting.

The sentencing is the latest act of a three-and-a-half-year legal drama that has shown the fall from grace of a runner once viewed as an inspiration to many.

Pistorius killed Ms Steenkamp, a 29-year-old model and reality TV star, in the early hours of Valentine’s Day in 2013 by shooting her multiple times through a toilet cubicle door in his home.

Pistorius maintained he thought she was an intruder. Prosecutors said that he killed her intentionally after a row.

Outside court yesterday Dukes Masanabo, a South African sports official, said he was hoping Pistorius would be sentenced to 10 to 12 years, not six.

He said the sentence was too light because Pistorius was sentenced to almost the same sentence — five years — for his earlier manslaughter conviction.

“The law didn’t take its course,” Mr Masanabo said.

Belfast Telegraph

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