The mental state of Oscar Pistorius is "too severe" for him to defend himself against a life sentence and he should be sent to hospital rather than prison, a court has been told.

The former South African paralympian suffers more pronounced post-traumatic stress disorder and depression than at his trial two years ago for the murder of girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp, said a clinical psychologist.

He is "despondent and lethargic, and leaves his future in the hands of God", said Professor Jonathan Scholtz, called to give evidence for the defence.

The Pretoria court must decide if there are "substantial and compelling" reasons why the 29-year-old should not be sentenced to a full 15 years' jail for murdering the model in 2013.


Scholtz said he believed prison would have a "detrimental effect" on Pistorius.

He said that as well as studying law by correspondence, Pistorius had been offered a job by his uncle, Arnold Pistorius, working in child development. "It would be better if he gave back in constructive ways - using his skills to enhance the lives of others," he said.

After shooting the model, whom he claimed to believe was a burglar in his home, the athlete had suffered enough, he argued. "His fall from grace was enormous," Scholtz said. "He was vilified. He was unable to properly mourn her loss."

Judge Thokozile Masipa, who is hearing the case, originally delivered a manslaughter verdict, but the conviction was upgraded to murder by the court of appeal last December.

The athlete served 12 months' imprisonment before he was released on parole.

He has since been living under house arrest at his uncle's Pretoria mansion, wearing an electronic tag and carrying out community service.