herald

Saturday 16 December 2017

JUST 10 MO NTHS IN PRISON

BEHIND BARS: Oscar is sentenced to five years in jail but legal experts believe that he could be out in less than a year

Oscar Pistorius was today jailed for five years after shooting his model girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp.

Judge Thokozile Masipa sent the 27-year-old Paralympian to prison despite his lawyers arguing he should be given a non-custodial sentence.

But minutes after the verdict legal experts said he may serve just 10 months inside and then the rest of his sentence under house arrest.

Oscar appeared to wipe away a tear when the sentence was handed out as Judge Masipa said: "For a very good reason a sentence should neither be too light, nor too severe."

On count one, culpable homicide, he was given five years in prison and on a second gun charge for another incident he was given a suspended three-year prison sentence.

As he was led down to the cells, Miss Steenkamp's mother, June, smiled as she told of a sense of "closure" after a seventh-month trial, but said it "would not magic Reeva back".

The model's ailing father, who suffered a stroke after his daughter's death, said he was "very glad" the trial was over.

The five-year jail term was "the right sentence," Dup De Bruyn, the lawyer for the Steenkamp family said, adding that "justice was served".

distressed

The runner's sister Aimee briefly covered her head with a jacket and looked distressed.

The jailed athlete's uncle, Arnold Pistorius, said outside court that it had been a "painful process" for everyone involved.

"It has been a harrowing 20 months. We are all emotionally drained and exhausted," he said.

"The case, set down for three weeks originally, has been dragged out for seven months. In fact, for 20 months since the bail application."

He said the family accepted the sentence.

"Oscar will embrace this opportunity to pay back to society," he added.

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

Pistorius killed Ms Steenkamp on Valentine's Day last year, shooting her through a toilet door in his home. Pistorius said that the shooting was an accident because he mistook his girlfriend for a night-time intruder.

But according to legal observers, Pistorius could spend only ten months in jail and, provided he poses no trouble to the prison authorities, could spend the remainder of his sentence under correctional supervision at home.

He is expected to be sent to a high-security wing at the gang-ridden Pretoria Central Prison, where one criminal kingpin has already threatened to "take him out".

The courtroom was packed for the culmination of a case that has attracted intense scrutiny around the world. Police officers stood guard in the aisles, while Ms Steenkamp's family watched from the public gallery.

After a summary of the evidence in the case and related legal issues, the judge said: "Having regard to the circumstances of the matter, I am of the view that a non-custodial sentence would send the wrong message to the community.

"On the other hand, a long sentence would also not be appropriate either as it would lack the element of mercy."

Asking Pistorius to stand, she said: "The following... is what I consider to be a sentence that is fair and just, both to society and to the accused."

Earlier, she described Ms Steenkamp as "vivacious and full of life". The court heard her parents June and Barry in particular were "not coping very well without their daughter".

"Hopefully, this judgment on sentence shall provide some sort of closure for the family and all concerned so that they can move on with their lives," Judge Masipa said.

She added that while Pistorius is vulnerable, he has "excellent coping skills", and pointed out that he went on to compete against able-bodied athletes, but she said: "For some reason, that picture remains obscured in the background."

questioned

Judge Masipa criticised evidence given during the trial which questioned the ability of prisons in South Africa to cope with Pistorius's disability.

She said the expert's evidence "did not inspire any confidence in this court", and described it as "slapdash" and "disappointing".

The judge said that while the Department of Correctional Services was not perfect, it had made strides and was "moving with the times".

She said she was satisfied that the department was equipped to deal with inmates with special needs and said it was "coping reasonably well".

Meanwhile, the International Paralympic Committee said today that Pistorius will be ineligible to compete during his five-year prison sentence.

Although Pistorius could be released after 10 months to serve the remainder of his sentence under house arrest, the IPC says its rules bar him from running in Paralympic events for the full five years.

That would rule the 27-year-old out of the 2016 Rio de Janeiro Paralympics.

hnews@herald.ie

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