Paralympic gold medalist Oscar Pistorius was sentenced to six years in jail for murdering his model girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp on Valentine’s Day three years ago.
Judge Thokozile Masipa handed down the sentence, which was less than half of the recommended minimum 15-year jail term for murder, at the South African High Court on Wednesday as June and Barry Steenkamp, Reeva’s parents, watched from the public gallery. Pistorius, 29, showed little reaction as the judge read her decision and hugged his family afterward.
“A long-term of imprisonment will not serve justice in this matter,” she said. “The accused has already served 12 months, he is a first offender and he is not likely to re-offend.” Masipa called Pistorius “a fallen hero” and “a good candidate for rehabilitation.”
Pistorius, who was taken to Kgosi Mampuru prison in Pretoria, the capital, will have to serve at least three years before parole is considered, Marius du Toit, a criminal-defense lawyer at Du Toit Attorneys, said by phone.
“She definitely erred on the side of caution with a lenient sentence,” he said of Masipa.
Pistorius’s lawyers won’t appeal the sentence, Andrew Fawcett, who’s on his legal team, told reporters after the hearing.
Masipa originally convicted Pistorius of manslaughter and gave him a five-year sentence. In December, the Supreme Court of Appeal ruled that he was guilty of murder, citing “errors of law” in the first verdict. The Constitutional Court decided on March 3 that Pistorius couldn’t appeal the murder conviction.
Factors of mitigation outweighed those of aggravation, and Pistorius had shown remorse for the killing, Masipa said.
“I find that there are compelling and exceptional circumstances to deviate from the prescribed sentence of 15 years,” she said.
Known as the Blade Runner because of his J-shaped prosthetic blades, Pistorius was granted 10,000-rand ($670) bail and ordered to remain under house arrest. He’s been serving part of his previous sentence for culpable homicide at his uncle’s home.
Pistorius won six Paralympic gold medals and was the first double-amputee runner to compete at the Olympic Games. He was born without fibula in both legs, which were amputated below the knee when he was 11 months old.