South Africa’s highest criminal court has more than doubled the “shockingly lenient” sentence handed down to Oscar Pistorius for the murder of model girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp.
Originally ordered to spend five years behind bars on a manslaughter conviction, that punishment was initially lifted to six years when prosecutors appealed and obtained a verdict of murder.
Still not satisfied with the length of the sentence, the success of the prosecutors’ further appeal now saddles Pistorius with 13 years and five months.
The so-called Blade Runner was convicted of shooting Ms Steenkamp through a toilet door in the early hours of Valentine’s Day in 2013.
In tearful testimony that kept viewers around the world glued to their TV screens, Pistorius claimed to have mistaken her for an intruder, grabbed his gun and squeezed off four shots in rapid succession.
He told the initial trial, which attracted worldwide attention, that he was mortified to find the woman he claimed to love more than life itself slumped in a pool of blood when he pulled back the door.
The athlete was not in court for Friday’s ruling when the court handed down its decision.
The sentence is the standard term for murder under South African law. The court took into account time already served and subtracted those years from the overall total to arrive at 13 years and five months
“The sentence imposed … in respect of murder is set aside and substituted with the following: the respondent is sentenced to imprisonment for a period of 13 years and five months,” the judge said.
There was no immediate comment from either the Pistorius or Steenkamp families.
Rights groups in a country beset by high levels of violent crime against women claimed Pistorius received preferential treatment compared with non-whites and those without his wealth or international celebrity status
Friday’s decision almost certainly concludes what has been a near five-year legal saga surrounding the double-amputee athlete, a multiple Paralympic champion who was once one of the world’s most famous and celebrated sporting figures.
Pistorius has just one slight hope of reducing his term – an appeal to South Africa’s Constitutional Court, the ultimate legal authority in South Africa.
However, legal observers believe it unlikely the court would take up the case, and even less likely it would approve a reduction.
– with AAP