Pistorius ‘must serve at least 10 years in jail’

Pistorius' sister Aimee arrives at the High Court yesterday. Picture: Getty
Pistorius' sister Aimee arrives at the High Court yesterday. Picture: Getty
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PROSECUTORS have called for South African Olympic and Paralympic star Oscar Pistorius to be jailed for at least ten years for killing his girlfriend on Valentine’s Day last year.

Pistorius was convicted of culpable homicide last month for the shooting of Reeva Steenkamp, a 29-year-old law graduate and model, at his luxury home. Pistorius said he mistook Ms Steenkamp for an intruder.

“The minimum term that society will be happy with will be ten years imprisonment,” chief state prosecutor Gerrie Nel said yesterday at the close of a five-day sentencing hearing in Pretoria. “This is a serious matter. The negligence borders on intent. Ten years is the minimum,” Mr Nel told the court.

Judge Thokozile Masipa is to sentence 27-year-old Pistorius on Tuesday, ending a seven-month trial that has been televised from start to finish.

The defence and prosecution teams spent much of the sentencing hearing arguing over whether Pistorius should go to jail or be punished with a suspended sentence, house arrest or community service.

Legal experts are split on the likely outcome.

It is predicted that a non-custodial sentence would be likely to spark public anger and fuel a perception among black South Africans that, 20 years after the end of white-minority apartheid rule, wealthy whites are still able to secure preferential justice.

Judge Masipa is only the second black female judge in South Africa.

“We shouldn’t fail the parents. We shouldn’t fail society. Society may lose its trust in the court,” Mr Nel said.

The trial has been one of the most closely watched in history, with viewers gripped by the dramatic fall of a man who had been widely admired as a symbol of triumph over adversity.

Ms Steenkamp’s parents said after last month’s verdict that “justice was not served” when Pistorius avoided the more serious murder charge, which would have meant a compulsory jail term.

Defence attorney Barry Roux earlier said the double-amputee sprinter should be given community service because he had shown remorse and had been punished enough since he shot Ms Steenkamp dead through a toilet door in his Pretoria apartment.

“He was an icon for what he has achieved. He’s lost everything. He lost all his sponsors. He lost all his money. He has nothing. There is nothing left of this man,” Mr Roux said.

“He wants to make good as far as possible. Serious regard should be given to a community-based sentence so something good can come out of this.”

Mr Nel said that house arrest or community service would be “shockingly disproportionate” to the crime.

Mr Roux, referring to a newspaper headline written before the verdict, told the court: “It must be punishment in itself to be called a ‘cold-blooded murderer’.”

Mr Nel countered by saying Pistorius “loved” the media when they covered his athletic triumphs and he could “never be a victim” because he was responsible for his own downfall.