South African appeals court more than doubles Pistorius sentence

25Nov 2017
The Guardian
South African appeals court more than doubles Pistorius sentence

SOUTH Africa’s Supreme Court more than doubled Os- car Pistorius’ murder sentence yesterday after the state argued the original jail term of six years for killing his girl- friend Reeva Steenkamp was “shockingly lenie

The gold medal-winning athlete, known as the “Blade Runner” for his carbon- bre prosthetics, was not in court to hear the new sentence of 13 years and ve months handed down.

Steenkamp’s family were also absent but welcomed the sentence -- the minimum 15 years prescribed for murder, minus the time Pistorius has already served -- and said it showed justice could prevail in South Africa.

“This is an emotional thing for them. They just feel that their trust in the justice system has been con rmed this morning,” Tania Koen, a family spokeswoman, told Re- uters.

Rights groups in a country beset by high levels of vio- lent crime against women say Pistorius, 31, received pref- erential treatment compared to non-whites and those without his wealth or celebrity status.

Barry Steenkamp, the father of the slain model, told SABC television the family could now get on with their lives. “I always, from the beginning, said justice had not been served, now it has,” he said.

In the same interview, her mother June Steenkamp said: We felt that we didn’t have justice for Reeva by that too-lenient sentence but now we have justice for her.”

Pistorius’ elder brother Carl wrote on Twitter: “Shat- tered. Heartbroken. Gutted.”

The athlete was jailed in July last year after being found guilty on appeal of murdering model and law graduate Steenkamp on Valentine’s Day 2013 by ring four shots through a locked bathroom door. The case attracted worldwide interest.

He had originally been found guilty of manslaughter and sentenced to ve years in jail. That conviction was increased to murder by the Supreme Court in December 2015 and his sentence extended to six years by trial judge Thokozile Masipa in July last year.

At the time, Masipa ruled that although the Steenkamps had su ered a great loss, Pistorius’ life and career were also in ruins, saying “a fallen hero can never be at peace” and that “a long term in prison will not serve justice”.

In a scathing criticism of that ruling, the appeals court said the court had “erred in deviating from the pre- scribed minimum sentence of 15 years” imprisonment for murder.

“The sentence of six years’ imprisonment is shockingly lenient, to a point where it has the e ect of trivialising this serious o ence,” said Judge Willie Seriti, who read out the court’s decision.

“I am of the view that there are no substantial and com- pelling circumstances which can justify the departure from the prescribed minimum sentence.”

Seriti also censured Pistorius, saying the athlete’s apol- ogy to the deceased’s family during the hearing did “not demonstrate any genuine remorse on his part”.

“The logical consequence is that the respondent ... does not appreciate the gravity of his actions,” said Seriti. State prosecutors led by advocate Andrea Johnson had told the appeals hearing this month that there were no mitigating circumstances to justify Pistorius’ six-year sen-

tence.Defence lawyer Barry Roux argued that Pistorius did

not deliberately kill Steenkamp and the appeal should be thrown out.