Oscar Pistorius Sentenced to Five Years in Prison

Illustration for article titled Oscar Pistorius Sentenced to Five Years in Prison

Oscar Pistorius was sentenced to five years in prison on Tuesday for killing his girlfriend, Reeva Steenkamp.


Pistorius received his sentence for "culpable homicide" in the shooting death of Steenkamp in 2013. He was also sentenced to three years on related gun charges, which was suspended for five years. Some reports suggest he could be out as early as ten months, serving the remainder of his sentence under house arrest.

In reading the sentence, Judge Thokozile Matilda Masipa said there shouldn't be a different rule that applies to the rich and famous. She also batted down defense arguments that Pistorius' disability should get him house arrest because the South African prison system wasn't capable of providing appropriate care.


"I have no reason to believe the accused would present the department of correctional services with an insurmountable problem," Masipa said. Via the BBC:

Judge Masipa said: "Sentencing is about achieving the right balance. Sentencing is not a perfect exercise." She said there must be a balance between retribution, deterrence and rehabilitation.

The judge began summarising the evidence brought before the trial. She described the evidence of defence witness and social worker Annette Vergeer as "slapdash and disappointing". Ms Vergeer had argued Pistorius would be "a lot more vulnerable than the normal man" in jail.

But Judge Masipa said she was sure prisons were equipped to cater for the requirements of a special needs inmate.

On Valentine's Day 2013, Pistorius, an Olympic athlete and South African Paralympic gold medalist, shot and killed Steenkamp who was behind a locked bathroom door. Pisotrius, a gun nut, said he heard a noise he believed was an intruder and fired in self defense.

In September (following a flood of tears), Pistorius was found not guilty of "intentional homicide" in Steenkamp's death, and was instead found guilty of "culpable homicide." According to the BBC, the prosecution called for a minimum 10-year sentence while Pistorius' defense team sought house arrest and community service.


Five lousy years for killing a woman who was hiding in a bathroom from her supposed "boyfriend." Steenkamp's life was worth infinitely more than that.

Image via Getty.

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A Small Turnip

I'm not familiar with South African sentencing precedents, and ten months seems like a pitiful length of time to serve for what Pistorius did. But five years does seem reasonable, given Judge Masipa's verdict. And I realise this isn't a popular feeling, but Masipa's finding was probably the right one.

To be clear: I think Oscar Pistorius is a fucking disgrace of a human being. He's unarguably a brutal, narcissistic, paranoid, self-pitying, unstable piece of filth. I think he murdered Reeva Steenkamp, no question. But I followed the trial very carefully, and kept waiting for the prosecution to make the case. They didn't. They didn't do it. It was frustrating beyond belief, but they didn't have the preponderance of evidence needed to make the case for murder. It just wasn't there.

You know and I know that Pistorius was almost certainly guilty, but the court is obliged to make a decision based on the evidence presented. Given those stringent requirements, Masipa's verdict was probably the right one. It's depressing. Very. But we can't make legal decisions based on gut feelings and intuitions. Reasonable rule of law asks more than that.

Justice is a fucker, man. An absolute fucker.