Oscar Pistorius sentencing: what you need to know

Evan Bartlett@ev_bartlett
Tuesday 21 October 2014 10:30
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Oscar Pistorius in court on 21st October 2014

What is the sentence?

Oscar Pistorius has been sentenced to five years in prison for culpable homicide by judge Thokozile Masipa.

He was also given a further three year sentence which is suspended for five years for a firearms charge.

The athlete was sentenced following the fatal shooting of his partner Reeva Steenkamp on Valentine's Day 2013 in Pretoria.

What did the judge say?

Judge Thokozile Masipa spoke for well over an hour to explain her decision. She summarised the case and ran through evidence of the witnesses as well as assessments of Pistorius’s defence. That defence included recommendations that the former athlete could address his behaviour through correctional supervision outside prison.

However Masipa dismissed that argument, citing the evidence of Zach Modise, acting national head of correctional services, who said that while prisons in the country are not perfect they are “progressive and professional”.

Modise said the prison system would be able to deal with Pistorius’s needs and that he would not be the first disabled person to be imprisoned in South Africa – there cannot be a different rule for the rich and poor, the judge explained.

Masipa then emphasised that Pistorius had been found guilty of a very serious crime.

We ought to differentiate between what is in the public interest and what society wants. Courts do not exist to win popularity contests but exist to dispense justice.

The loss of life cannot be reversed. Nothing I do or say today can reverse what happened to the deceased and to her family.

Hopefully this sentence shall provide some sort of closure to the family.

There was momentary confusion when Masipa spoke about a similar trial, the Vorster case, where an intruder was shot. In the Vorster case the accused was given a three year sentence suspended for five years, with some misinterpreting it as her decision for Pistorius.

Masipa said in Pistorius's case a non-custodial sentence would send out the wrong message but a long term of imprisonment would not be appropriate.

She then asked Pistorius to stand and gave her verdict.

What happens next?

After hearing his sentence, Pistorius was led from the courtroom to a holding cell below.

Reporters in the courtroom say Pistorius’s uncle Arnold confirmed there will be no appeal from the defence.

It is believed the athlete will most likely serve his sentence at the Kgosi Mampuru II prison in Pretoria.

Pistorius's lawyer has said he expects to serve 10 months in jail and the rest under house arrest.

NBC reports that the International Paralympic Committee (IPC) has stated Pistorius will not be able to compete for the duration of his sentence and will therefore miss the 2016 Rio games.

What was the reaction?

Pistorius's uncle Arnold spoke to journalists outside court, saying:

Oscar will embrace this opportunity to pay back to society. I appeal to all of you as the media to accept the ruling of the court. After 20 months of relentless public trial, I would ask you, ladies and gentlemen of the media, to let us move forward in this process and give us some degree of dignity and privacy as we do so.

As a last word, I want to say something as an uncle. I hope Oscar will start his own healing process as you walk down the path of restoration. As a family, we are ready to guide and support Oscar as he serves his sentence.

In a brief statement, Reeva Steenkamp's parents said they were happy with the sentence. They are expected to comment further later today. On Twitter, a mis-spelling of Pistorius's name 'Pistorious' trended, as did the hashtag #ThingsLongerThanOscarsSentence.

The ANC Women's League (ANCWL), a women's liberation wing of South Africa's ruling party, has said in a statement that it is not satisfied with the verdict.

ANCWL will be making submissions to the state on our view that an appeal in this case is in the interest of the judicial system.

ANCWL has consistently campaigned for harsh sentences in all cases of violence against women and children.

As an organisation we are highly concerned with the high level of femicide in our country. Statistics indicate that a woman is killed every eight hours in South Africa. This situation is abnormal and should be unacceptable to every citizen.

More: Why today is as much about Reeva Steenkamp as Oscar Pistorius

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