Prosecutors appeal over Oscar Pistorius's 'shockingly' lenient murder sentence

The Oscar Pistorius case has returned to court in South Africa, with prosecutors seeking a longer sentence after the double-amputee athlete was found guilty of murder for shooting his girlfriend.

Prosecutors are asking South Africa's Supreme Court of Appeal to give them permission to challenge Pistorius's six-year term, calling it "shockingly" lenient.

The prosecution wants the 30-year-old to be jailed for at least 15 years for killing Reeva Steenkamp, the prescribed minimum sentence for murders that are not premeditated. There is no death penalty in South Africa.

Pistorius, who has served just over a year in a prison near the capital, Pretoria, did not attend the hearing.

Oscar Pistorius leaves the High Court in Pretoria, South Africa, after his sentencing proceedings on June 15, 2016. (AP Photo/Themba Hadebe, File)
Oscar Pistorius leaves the High Court in Pretoria, South Africa, after his sentencing proceedings on June 15, 2016. (AP Photo/Themba Hadebe, File)

Ms Steenkamp's mother, June Steenkamp, was at the courthouse, and lawyer Tania Koen said the family supported the prosecution's appeal.

It is the second time prosecutors have gone to the Supreme Court in the central city of Bloemfontein to challenge a decision by trial judge Thokozile Masipa.

In 2015, they successfully appealed against her judgment that Pistorius was not guilty of murder. The court overturned Judge Masipa's verdict of culpable homicide - or manslaughter - and convicted Pistorius of murder.

The judge then sentenced Pistorius to six years in prison for murder, a term just one year longer than her original sentence for manslaughter.

Judges can deviate from prescribed minimum sentences if there are compelling circumstances. The prosecution says there were no compelling reasons for Judge Masipa to give Pistorius a lighter sentence.

"What we are saying is the court exercised its discretion inappropriately," prosecutor Andrea Johnson said at Friday's hearing in front of a panel of five judges, adding that the six-year sentence was "unjust".

Ms Johnson also said Pistorius had not shown "genuine remorse" for shooting Ms Steenkamp multiple times through a closed toilet door in the early hours of Valentine's Day 2013. Pistorius claimed he thought Ms Steenkamp was a dangerous intruder.

Prosecutors were asking the Supreme Court for permission to appeal against Pistorius's sentence after Judge Masipa denied them permission.

AP

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