South African Paralympic gold medallist 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 criticised by women’s groups as too lenient, said she had accepted the defence 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.
Pistorius’ defence team said he would not appeal and that their client would be able to apply for parole after serving half to two-thirds of the sentence.
The track star, who had the lower part of his legs amputated when he was a baby, was freed from prison last October after almost a year behind bars. He was to serve the remainder of his five-year term under house arrest at his uncle’s house in a wealthy suburb of the capital. Pistorius has been living with his uncle since.