Oscar Pistorius in court today. Pictures: AP
Oscar Pistorius has been jailed for five years for shooting his girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp dead on Valentine’s Day last year.
His defence team has suggested he may only serve about 10 months actual jail time, with the remainder of the five-year term served under house arrest.
The amputee athlete, known as the Blade Runner, stood staring straight ahead as Judge Thokozile Masipa announced his sentence for killing the model.
Pistorius, 27, was also given three years, suspended for five years, for a firearms offence.
The judge handed down an immediate prison term for the charge of culpable homicide, saying she believed a non-custodial sentence would “send the wrong message to the community”.
Pistorius killed Ms Steenkamp, 29, in the early hours of February 14 2013 when he shot her through the bathroom door at his home in Pretoria. He insisted he thought he was firing at an intruder.
Reeva Steenkamp's parents Barry and June arrive in court today.
In delivering the sentence this morning, Judge Thokozile Masipa said the extent of negligence plays an important role in determining a sentence.
"A non-custodial sentence would send the wrong message to the community, but a long sentence would not be appropriate either," she said.
The range of sentencing options available to the judge included up to 15 years in jail, a suspended prison sentence, house arrest, community service and house arrest.
"The sentence should neither be too severe or too light," she said.
Judge Thokozile Masipa
A member of Pistorius's legal team claimed after the hearing that he is expected to serve a sixth of the sentence - around 10 months - in jail before being held under house arrest.
The courtroom was packed for the culmination of a case that has attracted intense scrutiny around the world. Interest was heightened by a ruling allowing some parts to be screened live on television.
Police officers stood guard in the aisles, while Ms Steenkamp’s family watched from the public gallery.
After a summary of the evidence in the case and related legal issues, the judge said: “Having regard to the circumstances of the matter, I am of the view that 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.”
Asking Pistorius to stand, she said: “The following... is what I consider to be a sentence that is fair and just, both to society and to the accused.”
Earlier, she described Ms Steenkamp as “vivacious and full of life”. The court heard her parents June and Barry in particular were “not coping very well without their daughter”.
Judge Masipa said: “The loss of life cannot be reversed. Nothing I say or do today can reverse what happened on February 14 2013 to the deceased and to her family.
“Hopefully, this judgment on sentence shall provide some sort of closure for the family and all concerned so that they can move on with their lives.”
Earlier she said: “It would be a sad day for this country if an impression were to be created that there was one law for the poor and disadvantaged, and another for the rich and famous.”
She said that during the course of the trial she had a feeling of unease as she listened to “one witness after another” place an “over-emphasis on the accused’s vulnerability”.
She said that while Pistorius is vulnerable, he has “excellent coping skills”, and pointed out that he went on to compete against able-bodied athletes, but she said: “For some reason, that picture remains obscured in the background.”
Judge Masipa criticised evidence given during the trial which questioned the ability of prisons in South Africa to cope with Pistorius’s disability.
She said the expert’s evidence “did not inspire any confidence in this court”, and described it as “slapdash” and “disappointing”.
The judge said that while the Department of Correctional Services was not perfect, it had made strides and was “moving with the times”.
She said: “If the accused in this matter were to be given a custodial sentence, it would not be the first time that the Correctional Services Department was confronted with an inmate with disabilities.”
She said she was satisfied that the department was equipped to deal with inmates with special needs and said it was “coping reasonably well”.
She said Pistorius would not present the department with an “insurmountable challenge”.
Judge Masipa gave the example of a pregnant woman belonging to one of the “most vulnerable groups of people”, and said a pregnant woman would be sentenced to jail if such a sentence was warranted.
Pistorius stood as the judge announced his sentence, and then left the courtroom and walked down a flight of stairs that lead to holding cells. His sentence starts immediately.