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Oscar Pistorius handed six-year sentence for murder of girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp

Oscar Pistorius arriving in court today
Oscar Pistorius arriving in court today

Six-time Paralympic gold medallist Oscar Pistorius has been sentenced to six years' imprisonment for the murder of girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp, a Pretoria court has ruled.

Paralympian Pistorius has been sentenced to serve six years in jail for murdering Ms Steenkamp.

The term was announced by a judge after a lengthy sentencing statement in a Pretoria courtroom.

Steenkamp's parents, Barry and June, sat on a bench on the other side of the courtroom during the hearing.

A delegation from the women's league of the South African ruling party, which is seeking to highlight the issue of violence against women, was also present in the packed, wood-panelled room.

Pistorius stood and faced Judge Thokozile Masipa as she announced the sentence in a Pretoria courtroom.

He was facing a possible 15-year jail term for shooting Steenkamp through a toilet cubicle door at his home in 2013, but Judge Masipa said substantial and compelling circumstances existed to give him a lesser sentence.

In reading out the sentence, Judge Masipa said Pistorius was a "fallen hero".

The judge ordered a recess to give prosecutors and Pistorius's defence lawyers time to decide if either wanted to appeal against the sentence.

Pistorius has never denied shooting and killing Steenkamp, a law graduate, but insisted he mistook her for an intruder.

He shot through a toilet door and only realised his mistake when he broke the door down with a cricket bat.

Steenkamp had been hit by four shots - it was too late.

Pistorius had been sentenced to five years for manslaughter, serving one sixth of the sentence before becoming eligible for house arrest.

He has been staying at his uncle's house in Pretoria since October 2015 and wearing an electronic tag.

Judge Masipa's initial conviction was overturned last December at a South African appeals court.

Five appeal judges ruled that the lower court did not correctly apply the rule of dolus eventualis - whether Pistorius knew that a death would be a likely result of his actions - after the athlete armed himself with a powerful weapon.

Judge Masipa considered the defence's argument that Pistorius was a "broken man", the time he has already spent in prison and his deep remorse.

She insisted public opinion on a case which has attracted global scrutiny could not play a part in sentencing and she had to be fair to all parties.

A 15-year prison sentence is the minimum punishment for murder in South Africa.

However, the law allows for a lesser sentence to be imposed in exceptional circumstances and that was taken into account.

Now the case appears to have closure.

Pistorius, known as the 'Blade Runner' due to his carbon fibre prosthetic running blades, was a figurehead of Paralympic sport, having won six gold medals across three Games.

He became the first amputee runner to compete in an Olympics at London 2012, making the semi-final of the 400metres.

The International Paralympic Committee will be making no comment on the conviction as it is not a sporting issue.