Oscar Trial 21.10.2014 01:58 pm

Five-year sentence ‘carefully chosen’ – law expert

Oscar Pistorius holds the hands of family members as he is taken down to the holding cells after being sentenced to five years imprisonment for the culpable homicide killing of his girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp at the high court in Pretoria, Tuesday, 21 October 2014. Picture: Herman Verwey/Media24/Pool

Oscar Pistorius holds the hands of family members as he is taken down to the holding cells after being sentenced to five years imprisonment for the culpable homicide killing of his girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp at the high court in Pretoria, Tuesday, 21 October 2014. Picture: Herman Verwey/Media24/Pool

The five years imposed on Oscar Pistorius was significant, because a longer sentence would not have given him a chance of house arrest, a law expert said on Tuesday.

“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.


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Arnold and Lois Pistorius react to the sentencing of paralympian Oscar Pistorius at the high court in Pretoria, Tuesday, 21 October 2014. Pistorius was sentenced to five years imprisonment for the culpable homicide killing of his girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp. He was also sentenced to three years, suspended for five years, for firing a pistol under a table at Tasha's restaurant in Johannesburg in January 2013. The sentences would run concurrently. Picture: Herman Verwey/Media24/Pool

Arnold and Lois Pistorius react to the sentencing of paralympian Oscar Pistorius at the high court in Pretoria, Tuesday, 21 October 2014. Pistorius was sentenced to five years imprisonment for the culpable homicide killing of his girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp. He was also sentenced to three years, suspended for five years, for firing a pistol under a table at Tasha’s restaurant in Johannesburg in January 2013. The sentences would run concurrently. Picture: Herman Verwey/Media24/Pool


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.

– Sapa

 

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