PRETORIA • South African Paralympic gold medallist Oscar Pistorius was sent back to jail for six years yesterday for murdering his girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp, less than half the 15-year minimum term sought by prosecutors.
Pistorius, who fatally shot Ms Steenkamp four times through a toilet door in his home three years ago, has already served 12 months in prison for her death. But the original manslaughter conviction was increased to murder by the Supreme Court of Appeal in December.
Judge Thokozile Masipa, whose sentence at the initial manslaughter trial was criticised by women's groups as being too lenient, said she had accepted the defence's argument that a lesser punishment was appropriate.
"Public opinion may be loud and persistent but it can play no role in the decision of this court," she said. "I am of the view that a long term in prison will not serve justice."
The 29-year-old, who stood impassively as the sentence was read out, hugged members of his legal team and chatted briefly with his sister Aimee before police led him away.
Women's rights groups say that Pistorius has received preferential treatment by the justice system, because of his race, wealth and international celebrity status. His supporters say he did not intend to kill Ms Steenkamp.
PUBLIC OPINION NOT RELEVANT
Public opinion may be loud and persistent but it can play no role in the decision of this court. I am of the view that a long term in prison will not serve justice.
JUDGE THOKOZILE MASIPA
The state and large sections of the South African public had demanded a 15-year jail term, the prescribed minimum term for murder, saying he showed no remorse for the 2013 killing.
It was unclear whether the state, which has two weeks to appeal, would accept yesterday's sentence.
Pistorius' defence team said he would not appeal and that he would be able to apply for parole after serving half to two-thirds of the sentence.
Parole conditions vary in South Africa, but he may be able to apply for parole after serving just three years behind bars.
The track star, who had the lower part of his legs amputated when he was a baby, was freed from prison last October after almost a year behind bars. He was to serve the remainder of his five-year term under house arrest at his uncle's house in a wealthy suburb of the capital, and has been living with him since.
Ms Steenkamp's father Barry, who said in an emotional statement to the sentencing hearing that Pistorius must pay for his crime, declined to comment on the prospects for an appeal. "We'll leave that to the state," he told reporters.
In her ruling yesterday, Judge Masipa said that although the Steenkamps suffered a great loss, Pistorius' life and career were also in ruins. "The life of the accused shall also never be the same. He is a fallen hero and can never be at peace," she said.