In Brief

Oscar Pistorius out of legal options as request to appeal rejected

Former star athlete loses bid to cut 13-year jail term for murder of Reeva Steenkamp

Oscar Pistorius sentenced to six years in prison for murder of Reeva Steenkamp

6 July

Oscar Pistorius will serve six years in prison for the murder of his girlfriend, Reeva Steenkamp.

The sentence is far less than South Africa's usual 15-year minimum. Talking about the mitigating factors, Judge Thokozile Masipa said Pistorius was "vulnerable" without his protheses and had taken immediate steps to try to save Steenkamp's life after she was shot.

Masipa disagreed with the state's claim that Pistorius showed no remorse and said that it is a "misperception" that there was an argument between Pistorius and Steenkamp before she was shot and killed.

"Public opinion may be loud and persistent but it can play no role in the decision of this court," she said.

South Africa has one of the highest murder rates in the world, and "some say a short sentence will send the wrong message to would-be-offenders", the BBC reports. The Women's League of the ruling ANC party called the sentence "an insult to women."

Here's how the sentencing unfolded this morning:

9.35am: Oscar Pistorius will not receive the full 15-year sentence for murder. Instead he will serve six years in prison.

Judge Thokozile Masipa has said she disagrees with the state's claim that Pistorius showed no genuine remorse. He apologised in court and has "previously and unsuccessfully" tried to contact Steenkamp's family more than once. 

Masipa acknowledges the very "real pain" suffered by Steenkamp's family, but said it is a "misperception" that there was an argument between Pistorius and Steenkamp before she was shot and killed.

Pistorius has been convicted of "murder dolus eventualis" not "murder dolus directus", which implies a higher degree of direct intent rather than recklessness. "Our courts are courts of law, not courts of public opinion," she says. "Public opinion may be loud and persistent but it can play no role in the decision of this court."

Talking about the mitigating factors, Masipa says Pistorius was "vulnerable" without his protheses and had taken immediate steps to try to save Steenkamp's life after she was shot.

Although the defence wanted a non-custodial sentence, deterrence and retribution are also important, says Masipa.

9.00am: Judge Thokozile Masipa, who presided over the original trial, has been setting out what has happened so far in Oscar Pistorius's case.

She reminds the court of the original finding, the appeal and the decision by the Supreme Court to overturn the first verdict.

Masipa says she must decide whether there is any cause to reduce the 15-year minimum sentence.Pistorius has displayed symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder, anxiety and depression, she says, also noting that his mother had anxiety around crime during his childhood.

The judge says Steenkamp's family continues to suffer as a result of her death, but also makes a point of dispelling misconceptions about the case. She says this was not a case of gender violence. "There is no indication at all that the deceased was in an abusive relationship," Masipa tells the court.

Society's expectations for punishment "cannot be legitimate if they are based on wrong perceptions", says the judge.

Under South African law, the court must impose the minimum sentence of 15 years for murder unless there are "substantial and compelling" reasons to reduce it.

8.30am: Oscar Pistorius will today learn how long he will spend in prison for the murder of his girlfriend, Reeva Steenkamp.

Pistorius, 29, has already served nine months of the five-year sentence for culpable homicide he was given in 2014, which was changed to murder last December following an appeal by the state.

The former Paralympic and Olympic athlete – known as the Blade Runner – could now spend at least 15 years behind bars, the minimum sentence for murder in South Africa. This could be reduced if mitigating factors are taken into account, such as his disability.

Appearing at a pre-sentence hearing last month, Pistorius removed his prosthetic legs and walked across the courtroom at the request of his own defence team. "His unsteady gait sought to remind the judge of his vulnerability, which could be a mitigating factor," the BBC reports.

The athlete has also expressed remorse over the events of 14 February 2013, when he shot 29-year-old Steenkamp four times through the bathroom door of his home, claiming he mistook her for an intruder.

"Many legal experts believe he will not serve the full 15-year jail term, with many expecting him to serve anything up to eight years behind bars," News.au.com reports.

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