Prosecutors bid to more than double Oscar Pistorius prison term

Oscar Pistorius was jailed for six years for the murder of Reeva Steenkamp, prosecutors are trying to get this increased to 15 years. Picture: Getty
Oscar Pistorius was jailed for six years for the murder of Reeva Steenkamp, prosecutors are trying to get this increased to 15 years. Picture: Getty
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Prosecutors are trying to convince a South African court to more than double Oscar Pistorius’ prison sentence from six to 15 years, saying a judge “overemphasized” his disability and was far too lenient on the double-amputee athlete.

The legal push was made in earnest yesterday to increase Pistorius’ jail time for the murder of girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp.

Chief prosecutor Andrea Johnson declared “murder is murder” to a five-judge panel at the Supreme Court of Appeal.

She asked them to overturn Pistorius’ initial sentence and give him the prescribed minimum of 15 years.

There is no death penalty in South Africa.

Pistorius could remain in prison until after he turns 40 if the court agrees with prosecutors the athlete deserves a harsher sentence. The judges did not deliver a decision yesterday.

Typically Supreme Court judges take a couple of weeks before the senior judge returns to read out the decision, which is made through a simple majority.

Pistorius’ fate remains uncertain nearly five years after the once-admired Olympic runner first appeared in court for shooting Ms Steenkamp multiple times through a closed toilet door at his home.

He was not present at yesterday’s hearing as he serves his sentence at a prison near the capital Pretoria.

He has served more than a year of his six-year term.

Ms Steenkamp’s mother, June Steenkamp, did attend. Speaking outside the courthouse, her lawyer said the Steenkamp family supported prosecutors’ attempt to get a longer sentence.

Prosecutors had two arguments to make to the court. First, they needed to apply for permission to appeal Pistorius’ sentence.

They were asked by the judges to also present their arguments for why, if their appeal is allowed, his sentence should be increased.

Ms Johnson called the six-year sentence “unjust”, adding: “What we are saying is the court exercised its discretion inappropriately.”

This is the second time prosecutors have gone to the Supreme Court in the central city of Bloemfontein to challenge a decision by Judge Thokozile Masipa, who presided over Pistorius’ trial.

Mr Masipa’s verdict of culpable homicide , or manslaughter, was overturned in 2015, with Pistorius instead convicted of murder.

Legal analysts say, however, it is more difficult to get the court to change a sentence.