Pistorius at risk of life sentence as appeal starts

Frank Dalleres
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Pistorius was given a five-year prison term
JAILED Paralympic star Oscar Pistorius could yet be handed life imprisonment after South African prosecutors appealed both his conviction for culpable homicide and his sentence.

Pistorius last week began a five-year term for killing girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp in February 2013 but could be back at home in Pretoria in as little as 10 months.

Prosecutors say they are not satisfied that the athlete was cleared of murder and convicted of the lesser charge, and that he was then only sentenced to five years in custody, some of which could be spent under house arrest.

Pistorius, 27, denied murder and said that he shot model and law graduate Steenkamp through a bathroom door in a case of mistaken identity, having thought he was being burgled.

“The prosecutors are now preparing the necessary papers in order to be able to file within the next few days,” said National Prosecuting Authority spokesperson Nathi Mncube. “The appeal on conviction is based on the question of law.”

State prosecutor Gerrie Nel argued during the sentencing hearing this month that only a 10-15 year jail sentence would maintain public trust in the legal system. The defence argued that Pistorius would be better rehabilitated if he spent any sentence on house arrest rather than behind bars, in part as prisons would not be well suited to a double amputee.

Judge Thokozile Masipa said in her verdict that she believed the sentence to be “fair and just, both to society and the accused”.

She added: “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.”

Pistorius became the first amputee sprinter to compete in an Olympic Games when he took part at London 2012.

He also won 400m gold in the Paralympic Games that followed.