Oscar Pistorius, sentenced Tuesday by Judge Thokozile Masipa to a maximum of five years in prison for his culpable homicide conviction in the Feb. 14, 2013 shooting death of girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp, might only have to serve 10 months in custody before his sentence is transferred to house arrest, experts said.
National Prosecuting Authority spokesman Nathi Mncube explained the delicate balance to Sky News following Tuesday’s court session, after which the Olympian was taken to prison in a van.
"Having regard to the circumstances in the matter, I am of the view that a non-custodial sentence would send the wrong message to the community," he said. "On the other hand, a long sentence would also not be appropriate either, as it would lack the element of mercy. What may appear to be justice to the general public may not be justice.
“Society cannot always get what they want."
Mncube said that the prosecution will debate whether to appeal the verdict over the next 14 days, adding they’re “satisfied with the fact that he will be serving some time in prison,” and that South Africa has witnessed a "functional" justice system at work.
"It's not only about vengeance,” Mncube said, “but it is about making sure that there is a fair and just process.”
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Masipa said the five-year sentence was one she felt to be “fair and just both to society and the accused," adding the process was a balancing act between the prosecution’s demands for a substantive sentence, and the defense’s rationale that the athlete’s life has already been shattered in the wake of the Valentine’s Day killing.
"I am of the view that a non-custodial sentence would send a wrong message to the community," Masipa said. "On the other hand, a long sentence would not be appropriate either, as it would lack the element of mercy."
The judge also sentenced the 27-year-old to three years in connection with a 2013 shooting in a restaurant, under the condition the sentence be fully suspended for five years, as long as Pistorius isn’t convicted of another weapon-related crime in that timeframe.
Reactions from both families involved reflected their exasperation, and a sense of closure, related to the tragic incident.
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Steenkamp's father Barry, following the sentencing, said, "I'm just glad it's all over," while Pistorius' uncle Arnold said he hopes “Oscar will start his own healing process as he walks down the path of restoration.
"As a family we are ready to support and guide Oscar as he serves his sentence."
Pistorius' brother Carl tweeted an image of himself and his brother, with the caption "Together in Christ we are strong."