'Broken' Pistorius faces sentencing for murdering girlfriend

South African Paralympic gold medallist Oscar Pistorius is due to be sentenced this week for the 2013 murder of his girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp, following years of legal twists and turns.
South African Paralympian Oscar Pistorius arrives at Pretoria High Court on June 13, 2016, for his sentencing hearing.
South African Paralympian Oscar Pistorius arrives at Pretoria High Court on June 13, 2016, for his sentencing hearing. PHOTO: AFP

PRETORIA (Reuters) - Oscar Pistorius is “a broken man” who should not be jailed, a psychologist told a court sentencing the South African Paralympic gold medalist for the 2013 murder of his girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp.

The 29-year-old, known as “Blade Runner” for the carbon-fibre prosthetic blades he used to race, appeared at the Monday (June 13) session dressed in a black suit, at times with his head in his hands.  He faces a minimum 15-year sentence in a case that has prompted a fierce debate in a country beset by high levels of violent crime.

Some rights groups have said the white athlete has received preferential treatment.

Professor Jonathan Scholtz, a psychologist called by Pistorius’ lawyer Barry Roux, told the hearing that Pistorius was on medication for depression, anxiety and insomnia.

“One would describe him as broken. In my opinion his current condition warrants hospitalisation,” Scholtz told the hearing that was attended by Steenkamp’s mother.

“Since 2013, he becomes traumatised when he hears the sound of gunfire,” Scholtz said. “He never wants to touch a firearm again.”

Prosecutor Gerrie Nel questioned Scholtz’s assertion that Pistorius was not fit to testify, saying the athlete had managed to give a TV interview. The hour-long interview with Britain’s ITV is due to air this month, local media have reported. 

 
 

The case has prompted a fierce debate in a country beset by high levels of violent crime. Some rights groups have said the white athlete got preferential treatment.

Pistorius, whose lower legs were amputated when he was a baby, initially received a five-year sentence for culpable homicide, South Africa's equivalent of manslaughter. The conviction was later upgraded to murder after an appeal heard by the Supreme Court.

Original trial judge Thokozile Masipa started hearing pre-sentencing arguments at Pretoria High Court, with Pistorius expected to discover his fate by the end of the week.

Outside the court, a group of people held up placards backing the athlete, one of them with the message: "Worldwide supporters of Oscar Pistorius".

Pistorius was released from prison in October after almost a year behind bars and allowed to serve out his term under house arrest on his uncle's property in a suburb of Pretoria.

He denies deliberately killing model and law graduate Steenkamp, saying he mistook her for an intruder when he fired four shots through a locked toilet door in his Pretoria home.

Pistorius reached the pinnacle of his fame in London 2012 when he became the first double amputee to run in the Olympics, reaching the 400-metres semi-finals.