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Oscar Pistorius begins jail sentence for Reeva Steenkamp death

South African athlete Oscar Pistorius has begun serving time in jail for killing his girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp.

He was driven to Pretoria’s Kgosi Mampuru prison where he is expected to be housed in the hospital wing.

Judge Thokozile Masipa gave Pistorius a five-year jail sentence for culpable homicide, but cleared him of murder.

His defence said it expected him to serve about 10 months, with the remainder under house arrest. His family say he will not appeal.

The parents of Reeva Steenkamp told the BBC they were happy with the sentence and relieved the case was over.

Prosecutors had called for a minimum 10-year term, and the defence had argued for community service and house arrest.
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Judge Thokozile Masipa hands down the sentence

Pistorius, 27, an amputee sprinter who became the first athlete to compete in the Olympic and Paralympic Games, killed Ms Steenkamp on Valentine’s Day last year.

He says he shot her by mistake, fearing there was an intruder in his house in Pretoria.

Ms Steenkamp, a 29-year-old model, reality TV star and law graduate, was hit three times by bullets fired by Pistorius through a toilet door.
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At the scene: Andrew Harding, BBC News, Pretoria

Before he went down the stairs and out of court, Oscar Pistorius slipped off his expensive watch and handed it to a relative. It seems the athlete probably knew his sentence beforehand, which helps explains the subdued atmosphere in court today.

This case has revealed plenty about South Africa – its gun culture, the strengths and inadequacies of its police and prisons. But above all it has been a simple story, about the rise and fall of a global icon.

As the crowds and cameras drift away from the courthouse, what lingers is the sense of waste. Of lives and careers for sure. But of time too.

A man and a woman went into a bathroom. Only one came out alive. As the judge made clear – the trial should have been over in a matter of weeks. Instead it turned into a tortuous, overwrought epic.

Relief as justice is served
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‘Already accommodated’

Pistorius showed little reaction to the sentence other than to wipe his eyes before being led away to a holding cell downstairs.

He was then driven away from court in an armoured police van to Pretoria’s Kgosi Mampuru prison, where he was expected to undergo a medical assessment.

It is likely that he will be held in a one-man cell in the hospital wing, thought to be most appropriate for the athlete’s disability.
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Kgosi Mampuru II prison – 21 October
Kgosi Mampuru II prison

Opponents of white minority regime executed here in apartheid era
Houses about 7,000 inmates
Current prisoners include apartheid death squad leader Eugene de Kock
Strict regulations on visiting hours – Pistorius to be allowed two per week
Prisoners’ possessions restricted, and computers prohibited altogether

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Correctional services spokesman Manelisi Wolela told AFP news agency Pistorius was “already accommodated at Kgosi Mampuru”.

He could be released after serving a sixth of his sentence, or 10 months, for good behaviour.

However, Dup De Bruyn, a lawyer for the Steenkamp family, told Reuters that he believed Pistorius would probably serve two years.

Pistorius’s uncle, Arnold, said the family would not appeal against the sentence.

“We accept the judgment. Oscar will embrace the opportunity to pay back to society,” he said.

He appealed to the media to “accept the ruling of court and let us move forward in this process and give us some degree of dignity and privacy”.

The BBC’s Nomsa Maseko, outside court, says opinion there was divided on the sentence, with some saying it was too light, others that it was fair.
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Reeva Steenkamp’s mother, June, said she believed justice had been served
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“I hope Oscar will begin his own healing process” – uncle Arnold Pistorius

Judge Masipa said she considered her sentence “fair and just, both to society and to the accused”.

She said: “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.”

She said Pistorius had made an “enormous contribution to society”, in his charity work and in changing the public perception of disability.

But she added: “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.”
Oscar Pistorius at the Pretoria High Court, 21 Oct Oscar Pistorius holds the hands of family members as he is led away
Judge Thokozile Masipa, 16 Oct Judge Masipa has ruled in a trial that has captured public attention in South Africa and beyond
Reeva Steenkamp and Oscar Pistorius, Jan 2013 Oscar Pistorius shot dead Reeva Steenkamp on Valentine’s Day last year

Judge Masipa also gave Pistorius a three-year suspended sentence for a separate incident – firing a gun in a restaurant.

The prosecution service said it would consider an appeal but expressed satisfaction that Pistorius had been given jail time.

However, the Women’s League of South Africa’s ruling African National Congress said it did plan to appeal.

“We’re doing this not only for Reeva but for the millions of South African women who are killed at the hands of their partners, people who are supposed to protect them,” said spokeswoman Khsuela Sangoni.

“A five-year sentence like this sends a message to society that it is fine to commit such heinous crimes as femicide, and you will be able to get away with a slap on the wrist.”

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