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Sunday 18 November 2018

Pistorius' sentence for murder more than doubled to 13 years

A tearful Oscar Pistorius during his trial
A tearful Oscar Pistorius during his trial
Oscar Pistorius with girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp, who he shot dead

Oscar Pistorius' prison sentence was more than doubled to 13 years and five months yesterday.

The extension was a surprisingly dramatic intervention by South Africa's Supreme Court of Appeal in the Olympic athlete's fate after the murder of his girlfriend, Reeva Steenkamp.

Supreme Court Justice Willie Seriti said a panel of judges unanimously upheld an appeal by prosecutors against Pistorius' original six-year sentence for shooting Ms Steenkamp multiple times in his home in 2013.

Lenient

Under that initial sentence, which the court called "shockingly lenient", the double-amputee runner could have been released on parole in mid-2019. Now, the earliest he will be eligible for parole is 2023.

The ruling could bring an end to the near five-year legal saga surrounding Pistorius, a Paralympic champion and record-breaker who was the first amputee to run at the Olympics and one of the most celebrated sportsmen in the world.

Ms Steenkamp's parents, Barry and June, were "emotional" as they watched Mr Seriti deliver the verdict live on television at their home, the family's lawyer said.

Pistorius killed Ms Steenkamp in the pre-dawn hours of Valentine's Day 2013 after shooting four times through a closed toilet cubicle door with his 9mm pistol.

He claimed he mistook the 29-year-old model and reality TV star for an intruder.

Pistorius was initially convicted of manslaughter by trial judge Thokozile Masipa.

That conviction was overturned and replaced with a murder conviction by the Supreme Court in 2015.

Pistorius was then sentenced to six years for murder by Ms Masipa, a decision also now rejected by the Supreme Court.

Prosecutors called the six-year sentence much too lenient and the Supreme Court agreed, saying in a full written ruling released later that "the sentence of six years' imprisonment is shockingly lenient to a point where it has the effect of trivialising this serious offence".

Backdated

The new sentence of 13 years and five months took into account the one year and seven months Pistorius served in prison and under house arrest after his manslaughter conviction.

The new sentence was backdated to start on the day he began his murder sentence, on July 6 last year.

Pistorius must serve at least half of the 13 years and five months - nearly seven years - before he can be considered for parole.

His lawyers have the option to appeal the new sentence at the Constitutional Court, the highest court in South Africa.

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