Pistorius begins jail sentence for Reeva Steenkamp death


South African athlete Oscar Pistorius has begun serving time in jail for killing his girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp.

He was driven to Pretoria’s Kgosi Mampuru prison where he is expected to be housed in the hospital wing.

Judge Thokozile Masipa gave Pistorius a five-year jail sentence for culpable homicide, but cleared him of murder.

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

The parents of Reeva Steenkamp told the BBC they were happy with the sentence and relieved the case was over.

Prosecutors had called for a minimum 10-year term, and the defence had argued for community service and house arrest.

Pistorius, 27, an amputee sprinter who became the first athlete to compete in the Olympic and Paralympic Games, killed Ms Steenkamp on Valentine’s Day last year.

He says he shot her by mistake, fearing there was an intruder in his house in Pretoria.

Ms Steenkamp, a 29-year-old model, reality TV star and law graduate, was hit three times by bullets fired by Pistorius through a toilet door.

Pistorius showed little reaction to the sentence other than to wipe his eyes before being led away to a holding cell downstairs.

He was then driven away from court in an armoured police van to Pretoria’s Kgosi Mampuru prison, where he was expected to undergo a medical assessment.

It is likely that he will be held in a one-man cell in the hospital wing, thought to be most appropriate for the athlete’s disability.

Correctional services spokesman Manelisi Wolela told AFP news agency Pistorius was “already accommodated at Kgosi Mampuru”.

He could be released after serving a sixth of his sentence, or 10 months, for good behaviour.

However, Dup De Bruyn, a lawyer for the Steenkamp family, told Reuters that he believed Pistorius would probably serve two years.

Pistorius’s uncle, Arnold, said the family would not appeal against the sentence.

“We accept the judgment. Oscar will embrace the opportunity to pay back to society,” he said.

He appealed to the media to “accept the ruling of court and let us move forward in this process and give us some degree of dignity and privacy”.

The BBC’s Nomsa Maseko, outside court, says opinion there was divided on the sentence, with some saying it was too light, others that it was fair.

Judge Masipa said she considered her sentence “fair and just, both to society and to the accused”.

She said: “A non-custodial sentence would send the wrong message to the community. On the other hand, a long sentence would also not be appropriate either, as it would lack the element of mercy.”

She said Pistorius had made an “enormous contribution to society”, in his charity work and in changing the public perception of disability.

But she added: “It would be a sad day for this country if an impression were to be created that there was one law for the poor and disadvantaged, and another for the rich and famous.”

Judge Masipa also gave Pistorius a three-year suspended sentence for a separate incident – firing a gun in a restaurant.

The prosecution service said it would consider an appeal but expressed satisfaction that Pistorius had been given jail time.

However, the Women’s League of South Africa’s ruling African National Congress said it did plan to appeal.

“We’re doing this not only for Reeva but for the millions of South African women who are killed at the hands of their partners, people who are supposed to protect them,” said spokeswoman Khsuela Sangoni.

“A five-year sentence like this sends a message to society that it is fine to commit such heinous crimes as femicide, and you will be able to get away with a slap on the wrist.”

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