Just weeks after 29-year-old Paralympian, Oscar Pistorius, was sentenced to a six-year jail term, dissatisfied South African prosecutors have come out to say that the sentence will be appealed because it was “shockingly too lenient” and “disproportionate to the crime.”
A statement released by the National Prosecuting Authority indicates that an application to appeal against the athlete’s sentence was submitted. The body of prosecutors say the need to appeal is significant in maintaining the integrity and reputation of the South African justice system.
”We respectfully submit that the sentence of six years imprisonment, in all the circumstances, is disproportionate to the crime of murder committed,” the statement read. “We hope that this appeal will also clarify, further, the principles of sentencing, particularly in crime categories for which there are prescribed minimum sentences ordained by legislation.”
The decision to appeal is not much of a surprise, considering the widespread outrage and disappointment that followed the verdict of July 6th where Judge Thokozile Masipa handed Pistorius a lighter sentence than he is legally eligible for. As provided by South African law, the minimum sentence for murder is 15 years; Pistorius six year sentence is 9 years less and he is eligible for parole in just three years.
This announcement revives and prolongs the three-and-a-half year long legal battle of Pistorius, who first appeared in court in March 2014 and was convicted of culpable homicide in September of the same year. However, last December, after serving a year out of five for the sentence for manslaughter, the verdict was upgraded to murder by the Court of Appeal.
Pistorius shot his 29-year-old girlfriend, Reeva Steenkamp, multiple times through a toilet door in his home back in February 2013. Although he did admit to killing her, his defence is that he mistook her for an intruder. Prosecutors have since opposed him saying the murder was intentional, and that he deserves a harsher punishment.
Herein lies the irony of the latest development: prosecutors need the permission of Judge Masipa to appeal her decision. If granted, the case can then be taken to the Supreme Court. But, for a judge who believes her verdict is fair, and that a longer sentence would not serve justice, gaining her permission is unlikely.
Earlier, Judge Masipa described the Paralympian as a good candidate for rehabilitation, who is unlikely to commit another crime. According to her, the athlete was genuinely remorseful over the death of Steenkamp, and had suffered enough through losing his career and financial wealth. In reaction to the outrage that followed her verdict weeks ago, she was quoted as saying, “Public opinion may be loud and persistent but it can play no role in the decision of this court.”
After the announcement on Thursday, the parents of Steenkamp issued a statement saying that they “have always fully supported (chief prosecutor) Gerrie Nel and his team’s fight for justice for Reeva…” But that they had no hand in the state’s decision to appeal the recent sentence. And that they are channelling their energy to launching a foundation in their daughter’s name.