Oscar Pistorius is expected to be sent back to prison when he faces sentencing today after an appeal court ruled he was guilty of murdering his girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp, agencies report. The Paralympian is in court to learn of his punishment – and under South African law he could be jailed for life.
However, Sky’s legal analyst Llewellyn Curlewis believes Judge Thokozile Masipa will opt for around 12 years. Pistorius, 29, would have to serve at least half of that in prison before becoming eligible for parole.
His double amputee status was cited by his legal team as one of the main reasons why he should be given a more lenient prison term than the recommended 15 years minimum for a first murder.
Other reasons they listed during last month’s sentencing hearing included time already served in jail and his deep remorse. The athlete has never denied shooting and killing Ms Steenkamp, a law graduate, at his home in Pretoria on Valentine Day’s morning 2013.
But he has always insisted he mistook her for an intruder when he fired four Black Talon bullets through the toilet door. He says he only realised his mistake when he broke down the door with a cricket bat, by which time it was too late – she had been hit by three bullets, one in her skull.
Judge Masipa believed Pistorius’ version of events and sentenced him to five years for culpable homicide (manslaughter). The runner served one fifth of that term before becoming eligible to continue the remainder under house arrest.
He has spent the past nine months at his uncle Arnold’s home in an upmarket area of Pretoria, although his movements have been restricted and he has had to wear an electronic tag. The culpable homicide conviction was overturned by the Supreme Court of Appeal after a panel found Judge Masipa had misinterpreted the law.
They ruled Pistorius had committed murder and last month the two legal teams returned to the High Court to argue over the length of sentence. The defence team described Pistorius as a “broken man” whose life has been shattered by Ms Steenkamp’s death and who was still too ill to give evidence.
They also pointed out he was effectively kept in solitary confinement in the hospital wing of the Kgosi Mampuru II prison amid fears his prosthetic limbs could be used as weapons. Pistorius ditched his prosthetics during the hearing to again illustrate his vulnerability when reduced to walking on his stumps.
Psychologist Dr Jonathan Scholtz said he was still suffering from post-traumatic stress and should be hospitalised rather than sent to jail. But the prosecution pointed out the runner had been well enough to give a well-publicised television interview during which he suggested his girlfriend would not want him to go to jail.
During the hearing, Ms Steenkamp’s father Barry took to the witness box for the first time and spoke about how all the family’s lives had changed irrevocably since his daughter’s death.
He also spoke of deliberately trying to harm himself to replicate his daughter’s pain and recalled how he had suffered a stroke because of the stress of the trial. Mr Steenkamp said while his wife June had forgiven Pistorius due to her strong Christian faith, they both felt forgiveness did not mean justice should not be served.
The family believe the couple had had an argument on the night Ms Steenkamp died and that Pistorius shot her in anger. The state has already been quoted as saying it will appeal anything less than an eight-year sentence as this would set an unacceptable precedent for other murder cases.