Oscar Pistorius is being sentenced for negligently killing Reeva Steenkamp – but could he escape a jail term?

The fallen athletics idol is now a convicted killer and sentencing proceedings have got under way in Pretoria, South Africa.

Jail time for Pistorius has been predicted because of the severity of his culpable homicide conviction, which carries a tariff of up to 15 years. Public opinion in South Africa and on social media has also demanded a custodial sentence.

But that might not happen and Pistorius, 27, could avoid going to jail altogether. Instead, he could be released on medical parole.

That is because of recent changes to the law in South Africa. Under the 2012 reforms, there are special dispensations for disabled prisoners.

It means there are three possibilities why Pistorius - who is a double amputee - could be eligible for medical parole.

Causes for a non-custodial sentence would be if the prison system cannot deal with his disability, if his condition worsens, or if he becomes unable to wash or feed himself.

Considering the public outcry which greeted judge Thokozile Masipa's not guilty verdict for pre-meditated murder, it is likely that a non-custodial sentence for Pistorius would get a negative reaction, too.

In South African prisons most disabled patients – of which there are only 88 currently in the penal system – are detained in prison hospital facilities.

Should Pistorius not be eligible for medical parole then he is likely to still be given special treatment behind bars if he is handed jail time.

It is probable that he would be detained in a cell by himself, or with one other person at most, according to local media. That is in sharp contrast to normal conditions, in which inmates are detained in communal cells holding numerous other prisoners.

Sentencing proceedings in the Pistorius case could last up to one week.