South African prosecutors say Pistorius sentence “shockingly lenient”, seek appeal

Oscar Pistorius
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BLOEMFONTEIN, South Africa (Reuters) – South Africa’s state prosecutors told the Supreme Court of Appeal (SCA) on Friday the six-year sentence for murder handed to Paralympic gold medallist Oscar Pistorius was “shockingly lenient” and asked for the right to launch an appeal.

Pistorius was imprisoned in July last year after being found guilty on appeal of murdering his girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp on Valentine’s Day 2013. The case has attracted worldwide interest.

He was not in court for Friday’s hearing.

Women’s rights groups in a country beset by high levels of violent crime against women say Pistorius has received preferential treatment compared to non-whites and those without his wealth or international celebrity status.

The athlete was originally convicted of manslaughter and sentenced to five years in jail. That conviction was increased to murder by the SCA in December 2015 and his sentence increased to six years by trial Judge Thokozile Masipa.

State prosecutors, led by advocate Andrea Johnson, said the sentence by Masipa was too lenient as the jail term was less than half the minimum 15-year sentence prescribed for murder in South Africa.

Johnson said the High Court did not list the substantial and compelling factors for deviating from the 15-year sentence and that Pistorius had not shown remorse for the murder.

“There is no true, gut-wrenching remorse,” Johnson said.

“It is shockingly lenient and has accordingly resulted in an injustice,” she said, referring to the sentence.

Lawyers for the gold medallist, known as the “Blade Runner” for his carbon-fibre prosthetics, say he did not deliberately kill model and law graduate Steenkamp.

Barry Roux, lead defence lawyer for Pistorius, said the athlete was suffering from severe and worsening post-traumatic stress disorder over the case.

Roux said Masipa had addressed the misperception that Pistorius deliberately killed Steenkamp.

“Leave to appeal should really not be granted,” he said.

The court did not set a date for when it would rule on whether the appeal can be heard or not.