“The number ‘five years’ was not an ordinary number, it was carefully selected,” Wits School of Law Professor Stephen Tuson said.
According to Section 276 of the Criminal Procedure Act, one-sixth of a jail sentence can be converted to house arrest, if the sentence is not more than five years.
This meant Pistorius could spend only 10 months in prison.
“That is why it was carefully chosen,” Tuson said.
Pistorius was sentenced to five years in prison after being found guilty of culpable homicide. For discharging a firearm at Tasha’s restaurant in January 2013, he was sentenced to three years in jail, suspended for five years.
Both sentences would run concurrently, Judge Thokozile Masipa ruled.
Tuson said both the State and the defence would now have 14 days to apply for leave to appeal.
The State could only appeal if there was a question of law or the sentence, while the defence could appeal the conviction and the sentence.
However, he said this would not be advisable for the defence because Pistorius’s sentence could be made heavier than the present one.
“It is inadvisable [for the defence] to appeal the conviction because they got off lightly with culpable homicide,” Tuson said.
On September 12, Masipa found Pistorius guilty of Steenkamp’s culpable homicide, but not guilty of her murder.
Pistorius had claimed he thought there was a burglar in his toilet when he fired four shots through a locked door in the early hours of February 14 last year, killing Steenkamp. The incident happened at his Pretoria home.
Masipa also found Pistorius guilty of discharging a firearm in public, when a shot was discharged from his friend Darren Fresco’s Glock pistol under a table at Tasha’s restaurant in Melrose Arch, Johannesburg, in January 2013.
Pistorius was found not guilty on two firearms-related charges – illegal possession of ammunition and shooting through the open sunroof of a car with his 9mm pistol while driving with friends in Modderfontein on September 30, 2012.