The double-amputee Paralympian, Oscar Pistorius, who, on 11 and 12 September, 2014, was found not guilty of murdering his girlfriend, Reeva Steenkamp, on St. Valentine’s Day 2013, but was convicted of her ‘culpable homicide’, which is equivalent to ‘manslaughter’,* was sentenced to five years’ imprisonment on 21 October, 2014.
He was also sentenced to three years’ imprisonment, which was wholly suspended and to run concurrently with the five-year term, for a firearms offence, namely, negligently discharging a firearm in a crowded restaurant.
Pistorius was also ordered to surrender all his guns as well as his firearms licences.
These sentences bring to an end his seven-months’ trial, which was televised throughout its proceedings and closely followed around the world.
In sentencing him, following a painstaking and clear enunciation of the relevant legal principles and considerations, Judge Thokozile Masipa told him:
“I am of the view that a non-custodial sentence would send a wrong message to the community. On the other hand, a long sentence would not be appropriate either, as it would lack the element of mercy.”
The prosecution had called for a ten year jail term. The Judge acknowledged that there may be many who would not agree with her ruling, observing that:
“Society cannot always get what they want. Courts do not exist for a popularity contest but only to dispense justice ……. The general public may not even know the difference between punishment and vengeance.”
It is possible that Pistorius could be released from jail in 10 months’ time (in August 2015), although he is expected to serve up to 20 months behind bars, and complete the rest of his sentence under house arrest.
So, what happens now to his sporting career?
The International Paralympics Association (IPA) have stated that he would not be free to compete in the Paralympic Games for five years, even if he is released from jail earlier,which means that Pistorius, who is twenty-seven years old, would miss the Rio Paralympics, which begin on 7 September, 2016, but could be eligible for the 2020 Tokyo Games.
It is expected that the IAAF (International Association of Athletics Federations), for whose sanctioned events he won the right to compete against able-bodied athletes in IAAF in a landmark decision of the Court of Arbitration for Sport rendered on 16 May, 2008 (CAS 2008/A/1480 Pistorius v/ IAAF), will take the same view as the IPA.
*See Post of 16 September, 2014.
In any case, when the time comes, would Pistorius, who would then be thirty-two years old, be fit and, if so, also selected to compete?
Prof Dr Ian Blackshaw is an International Sports Lawyer, Academic and Author and may be contacted by e-mail at ‘firstname.lastname@example.org’