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Paralympian Oscar Pistorius has been sentenced to six years in prison for murdering his girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp three years ago.
High Court judge Thokozile Masipa said in her ruling yesterday that she did not believe the defence witness who said that Pistorius was severely depressed and needed to be hospitalised rather than sent to prison.
The judge said she understood that members of the public would not like her decision, but the punishment needed to fit the crime.
Pistorius said he will not appeal his six-year jail sentence, a member of his legal team said outside the High Court in Pretoria yesterday.
“We respect the decision of Judge Masipa and are not lodging an application for leave to appeal. Oscar will serve his sentence as handed down,” Andrew Fawcett said.
Told by a reporter that she had heard that the State was considering applying for leave to appeal, he said: “We will let them make that decision.”
“Public opinion may be loud and persistent, but it can play no role in the decision of this court,” she said.
The lawyer of Pistorius later said he would not appeal the sentence.
Pistorius had been freed from prison in the South African capital of Pretoria last October after serving one year of a five-year term for culpable homicide – the equivalent of manslaughter.
But an appeals court upgraded the conviction to murder, which has a mandatory sentence of 15 years.
Pistorius (29), shot Steenkamp in the early hours of Valentine’s Day in 2013, claiming he mistook her for a burglar when he fired four times through the door of his bedroom toilet.
Tania Page, reporting from Pretoria, said that the judge seemed to have believed that he had shown remorse.
“She said he apologised to the family [of the victim],” she said. “She believes he’d be a good candidate for full rehabilitation.”
She also said that Pistorious could only one of the six-year sentence with good behaviour if it was not appealed.
Yesterday’s sentencing may also not be the end of the saga, as Pistorius or the state could launch a final round of appeals against the length of the prison term.
Judge Thokozile Masipa, who heard the original trial, delivered the sentence three weeks after a court hearing that marked another episode of high drama in the long-running case.
Then, Pistorius, sobbing heavily, hobbled on his stumps across the courtroom to demonstrate his physical vulnerability as his lawyers argued he should not return to jail on account of his anxiety disorder and depression.
But prosecutor Gerrie Nel argued that the double-amputee sprinter should be given a lengthy jail term as he failed to show any remorse for the murder.
Nel also criticised Pistorius for filming a recent television interview, despite claiming to be too unwell to give evidence in court.
In the interview — his first since the killing – Pistorius said that he believed Steenkamp would want him to devote his life to charity rather than return to prison.
Steenkamp’s father, 73-year-old Barry, broke down during his testimony at the sentencing hearing as he called for Pistorius to “pay for his crime” of murdering Reeva, a model and law graduate.
Pistorius, who pleaded not guilty at his trial in 2014, has always denied killing Steenkamp in a rage, saying he was trying to protect her.
The Supreme Court of Appeal in December ruled that Pistorius was guilty of murder, irrespective of who was behind the door when he opened fire with a high-calibre pistol he kept under his bed.
Pistorius – who was born without calf bones – had his legs amputated below the knee when he was just 11 months old so he could be fitted with prosthetic legs.
Since his release, Pistorius has lived under restrictions at his uncle’s mansion in Pretoria. He became the first Paralympian to compete against able-bodied athletes at the 2012 London Olympics. — Sapa.