Court rejects appeal for Pistorius to be jailed for longer
A South African judge on Friday rejected an appeal by state prosecutors against Oscar Pistorius’s “shockingly lenient” six-year jail sentence for murdering his girlfriend.
Thokozile Masipa — the same judge who imposed the punishment on the Paralympic athlete last month — said she was not persuaded there was a “reasonable prospect of success on appeal”.
“The application for leave to appeal against the sentence is dismissed with costs,” she said in the High Court in Johannesburg.
Prosecutors had been pushing for a tougher sentence against the fallen 29-year-old double-amputee sprint star over the murder of his girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp in 2013.
They now have the option of directly petitioning the Supreme Court of Appeal to ask it to extend the term — which is less than half the minimum 15-year sentence for murder in South Africa.
Masipa presided over Pistorius’s lengthy trial in the glare of the world’s media, and South African law empowers the trial judge to grant or reject applications to appeal their own judgements.
“The sentence of six years is shockingly lenient and disturbingly inappropriate,” prosecutor Gerrie Nel argued in court.
Pistorius shot Steenkamp, a model and law graduate, in the early hours of Valentine’s Day in 2013, saying he mistook her for a burglar when he fired four times through the door of his bedroom toilet.
At his sentencing in July, Masipa listed mitigating factors, including the athlete’s claim he believed he was shooting an intruder.
The prosecution on Friday again questioned Pistorius’s failure to testify during the sentencing hearings, saying it raised the question of whether he had shown remorse.
Nel also said the punishment had “resulted in an injustice and had the potential to bring the administration of justice into disrepute”.
He described it as flawed and that “another court may find that this court misdirected itself”.
Pistorius is serving his sentence at Kgosi Mampuru II prison in the capital Pretoria.
– ‘Enough is enough’ –
Masipa had also originally convicted Pistorius of the lesser charge of culpable homicide, the equivalent of manslaughter, in 2014.
But an appeals court upgraded his conviction to murder in December last year.
Pistorius’s defence said it was an “insult” to suggest that the court’s sentencing had been flawed and that it was time the case came to a close.
“Enough is enough. What does the state want?” defence lawyer Barry Roux said.
“This case has been exhausted beyond a point of any conceivable exhaustion,” he added, accusing the prosecution of sending Pistorius “like a ping pong ball between courts.”
However, the prosecution still has recourse to a higher court.
“Any party who has to apply to the trial judge for permission to appeal and is unsuccessful, the option is open for them to petition the Supreme Court of Appeal,” said Stephan Terblanche, a law professor at the University of South Africa.
Terblanche said the Supreme Court would study the grounds of appeal and those opposing the appeal, and make a decision without conducting a hearing.
Pistorius, who pleaded not guilty at his high-profile trial, has always denied killing 29-year-old Steenkamp in a rage, saying he was trying to protect her.
South African media reports earlier this month said the athlete had been put on suicide watch following mysterious wrist injuries.
He said he sustained the injuries after falling from his bed and his family denied that he had tried to kill himself.
The year before he killed Steenkamp, Pistorius — known as the Blade Runner — became the first double-amputee to race at Olympic level when he appeared at the London 2012 Games.
The Steenkamp and Pistorius families could not be reached for immediate comment.