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Oscar Pistorius Taken to Prison

Oscar Pistorius Taken to Prison
Paralympic athlete Oscar Pistorius escorted by police at the Pretoria High Court.

Oscar Pistorius looked like he was about to cry as he made his way down to the holding cells below the High Court in Pretoria on Tuesday, after being sentenced to five years behind bars.

The paralympian, convicted of culpable homicide for shooting dead his girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp, touched the hands of some of his relatives, including his uncle Arnold Pistorius and wife Lois, and exchanged a few words with them before he disappeared.

While leaving the court room Steenkamp's parents, June and Barry, both looked down at the stairs leading to the cells.

In addition to the five years, Judge Thokozile Masipa sentenced Pistorius to three years' jail, suspended for five years, for discharging a firearm in Tasha's restaurant in Melrose Arch, Johannesburg. The sentence would come into effect if he is found guilty of negligent use of a firearm in that period.

The two sentences would run concurrently.

Pistorius may end up spending only 10 months in prison, a justice department spokesman said.

"Five years in terms of the Criminal Procedure Act means the accused serves one-sixth of the sentence, which is 10 months," spokesman Mthunzi Mhaga said on his Facebook wall.

"And an offender or inmate can be considered for placement under correctional supervision which is processed by correctional services."

National Prosecuting Authority spokesman Nathi Mncube told reporters at court there was an "appetite" to appeal, but the facts needed to be examined.

"There is an appetite to appeal and we have 14 days to consider the law, and ensure the facts and the law allow us to appeal," Mncube said.

While the NPA had not been happy that Pistorius had been found guilty of culpable homicide and not murder, he said it was a "consolation" that Pistorius would go to jail.

Masipa said a suspended sentence would not be appropriate.

"I am of the view that a non-custodial sentence would send the wrong message to the community. On the other hand a long sentence would not be appropriate as it would lack mercy," she said.

"It will be a sad day if the impression was created that there was one law for the poor and one law for the rich and the famous."

She said a long prison sentence would "break" Pistorius, but a suspended sentence could see society losing faith in the justice system.

Masipa summarised the evidence of the witnesses who had testified during sentencing arguments, and singled out social worker and probation officer Annette Vergeer, and acting national correctional services commissioner Zach Modise for criticism and praise.

The defence had called Vergeer to argue that prisons did not have facilities to accommodate the disabled, and to recommend a sentence of three years of correctional supervision and 16 hours of community service a month over that period.

"I was not impressed by the evidence of Ms Vergeer," Masipa said.

Her evidence did not inspire confidence, she used outdated information, and was slapdash. Her evidence was perfunctory and unhelpful, she said.

"It was unhelpful... I find it quite disturbing from someone with 28 years of experience," she said.

On the other hand, Modise, who testified for the State, was a candid witness who described a department that was not perfect, but was improving.

"He did not paint a picture of a problem-free department, but of one which was making strides and moving with the times," she said.

Dealing with Pistorius using his disability in a bid to avoid jail, Masipa said: "There was a feeling of unease on my part as I listened to one witness after another placing an over-emphasis on the accused's vulnerability.

"Yes, he is vulnerable, but he also has excellent coping skills."

After proceedings, Barry Steenkamp said: "[We are] satisfied with the sentence... [it's] now time to go home."

Briefing reporters Pistorius's uncle Arnold said the athlete would "embrace" the sentence.

"As an uncle, I hope Oscar will start the healing process as he walks this path and serves the sentence."

The African National Congress Women's League said Pistorius's sentence signalled a sad day for women in South Africa.

"We are saddened by the judgment... we have never been happy with the conviction of culpable homicide, instead of murder," spokeswoman Jacqui Mofokeng said outside court.

"We call for the national prosecutions to appeal this sentence... and do it for our society."

Pistorius was driven out of the court in a police Nyala at noon, escorted by several police cars with lights flashing and sirens wailing.

Source: allAfrica

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