Surprise as Pistorius jailed for six years over girlfriend's murder

Wed Jul 6, 2016 8:17am EDT
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By TJ Strydom and Tanisha Heiberg

PRETORIA (Reuters) - South African Paralympic gold medalist Oscar Pistorius was sent back to jail for six years on Wednesday for murdering Reeva Steenkamp, less than half the 15 year minimum term sought by prosecutors.

Pistorius, who fatally shot his girlfriend four times through a toilet door, has already served 12 months in prison for her death. But the original manslaughter conviction was increased to murder by the Supreme Court of Appeal in December.

Judge Thokozile Masipa, whose sentence at the initial manslaughter trial was criticized by women's groups as too lenient, said she had accepted the defense argument that a lesser punishment was appropriate.

"Public opinion may be loud and persistent but it can play no role in the decision of this court," Masipa said. "I am of the view that a long term in prison will not serve justice."

Pistorius, who stood impassively as the sentence was read out, hugged members of his legal team and chatted briefly with his sister Aimee before being led away by police.

Women's rights groups say Pistorius has received preferential treatment by the justice system compared to non-whites and those without his wealth or international celebrity status. His backers say he did not intend to kill Steenkamp.

The state and large sections of the South African public had demanded a 15 year jail term, the prescribed minimum term for murder, saying he had shown no remorse for the 2013 killing.

It was unclear whether the state, which has two weeks to appeal, would accept Wednesday's sentence.   Continued...

Olympic and Paralympic track star Oscar Pistorius is escorted by police officers as he arrives for his sententencing for the 2013 murder of his girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp, at North Gauteng High Court in Pretoria, South Africa July 6, 2016. REUTERS/Siphiwe Sibeko