22 Oct 2014

Pistorius jailed for killing girlfriend

3:10 pm on 22 October 2014

South African athlete Oscar Pistorius has been jailed for five years for killing his girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp on Valentine's Day last year at his home in Pretoria.

Oscar Pistorius reacts to hearing that he is to spend the next five years in jail.

Oscar Pistorius reacts to hearing that he is to spend the next five years in jail. Photo: AFP

At the culmination of one of the most watched murder trials in recent history, the 27-year-old disabled sprinter was today led away by police to holding cells beneath the courtroom in Pretoria.

Judge Thokozile Masipa said the sentence had to be fair to society and the accused.

Judge Thokozile Masipa said the sentence had to be fair to society and the accused. Photo: AFP

Last month, he was found guilty on the charge of culpable homicide (or manslaughter) for shooting Ms Steenkamp dead in the toilet of his home, but cleared of murder.

Pistorius claimed that he had mistaken her for an intruder.

The 29-year-old model and law graduate was hit three times by bullets. However, Judge Thokozile Masipa said the state had failed to prove that he intended to kill.

The Olympic and Paralympic track star wiped his eyes as the judge handed down the prison sentence. He was also given a three-year suspended sentence for a firearms charge.

Oscar Pistorius and Reeva Steenkamp in January last year.

Oscar Pistorius and Reeva Steenkamp in January last year. Photo: AFP

The judge said a non-custodial sentence would send the wrong message to the public, but a long jail term would also lack "an element of mercy", and there must be a balance between retribution, deterrence and rehabilitation.

The prosecution had argued for a 10-year prison term, while the defence said that a sentence of home detention would have been more appropriate, Reuters reports.

Judge Masipa said she wanted a sentence which had to be "fair and just to society and to the accused".

Pistorius' defence said it expected him to serve about 10 months, with the remainder under house arrest. His family said he would will not appeal.

A lawyer for the Steenkamp family told reporters that justice had been served and the judge had given the right sentence.

Before the fatal shooting, Oscar Pistorius was feted in South Africa and known as the "blade runner" because of the carbon fibre prosthetic blades he wears for racing. He had won gold at the London 2012 Paralympic Games and also competed at the Olympics.

Following the sentencing, Pistorius was driven away from court in a police van to Pretoria's Kgosi Mampuru prison. It was expected that he will be held in a one-man cell in the hospital wing.

Correctional services spokesman Manelisi Wolela later told AFP that Pistorius was "already accommodated at Kgosi Mampuru".

Bary and June Steenkamp in court today.

Bary and June Steenkamp in court today. Photo: REUTERS

Get the new RNZ app

for ad-free news and current affairs