Could Oscar Pistorius beat the rap by escaping a jail term at trial sentencing?
South African government has denied prisons are rife with male rape and violence after claim at Oscar Pistorius' trialGetty

The South African government has staged an extraordinary intervention in the Oscar Pistorius case by claiming he would not be at risk of rape and HIV.

South African Correctional Centres have moved to rebuff claims about conditions in the country's jails, after a defence witness at Pistorious' sentencing hearing claimed he should not be jailed because "he would have no protection" behind bars.

Dr Annette Vergeer said: "The exposure of the accused in the showers on his stumps will have a severe effect on him. There is no protection against his exposure. The accused would have to survive in very difficult conditions and the reality of HIV/AIDS is no longer denied."

Dr Vergeer's claim has been branded "inaccurate" by the correctional centres body, which has taken the step of issuing a public statement to dispute it.

"The reports seek to create an impression that our centres are fraught with, amongst other things, unhygienic conditions, gang violence and sodomy or rape," a statement said.

"In as much as our department respects the rule that applies to court proceedings that have not yet been finalised, the image of our correctional centres, our department and the government in general is at stake.

"Such allegations about the conditions in our centres are inaccurate."

Pistorius faces up to 15 years in prison after being convicted of culpable homicide in the killing of girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp.

Officials have recommended he serve three years under house arrest - including community service - which would controversially enable the Paralympian to resume his athletics career. Prosecutor Gerrie Nel called the proposal "shockingly inappropriate."