After months of one of the most widely reported trial in recent times, Oscar Pistorius has finally been sentenced to five years in prison for culpable homicide, and a suspended sentence of three years for firearm charges. The trial that started in March was supposed to go on for only three weeks, but with the world watching, was extended to ensure that the right decision was made. Paralympic star Oscar Pistorius had shot and killed his girlfriend, Ms Riva Steenkamp, which the prosecution alleged was premeditated, but could not prove beyond reasonable doubt.

Pistorius’ defence team argued that the athlete should be spared a jail sentence because of his disability, but that argument is flawed, considering he is not the first disabled person to be put behind bars, nor will he be the last. In South Africa, those convicted of culpable homicide, manslaughter as it is known in other countries, can serve a portion of their sentence under house arrest, provided they have served at least one-sixth of the punishment in prison. For Pistorius, this means 10 months.

There are also those that argue that the sentence was too lenient, based on his disability, and because he is a public figure. But culpable homicide in the legal context has no fixed sentence considering there are degrees of negligence that can lead to the death of another individual. The punishment can be anywhere from fifteen years to community service and house arrest. Judge Masipa wanted to strike a balance between mercy and punishment, and reminded the prosecution that the sentence was not for vengeance, but justice. It is not for us to comment on whether the sentence is too lenient or otherwise, but one can question whether media scrutiny and public attention had a part play in the sentencing. There is an argument to be made for keeping trials private, so that the judge cannot be swayed by any outside influence or public opinion. Regardless, almost eight months of what must have been a traumatic trial for families of both the defendant and the victim have finally brought about a conclusive end.