Belfast Telegraph

Wednesday 23 July 2014

Peru drug arrests: Michaella McCollum could serve sentence in UK if she pleads guilty

Michaella McCollum Connolly is escorted in handcuffs into a car by police as she leaves the National Police anti-drug headquarters before being driven to a court where she will be formally charged for drug trafficking in Lima, Peru, Tuesday, Aug. 20, 2013
Michaella McCollum Connolly is escorted in handcuffs into a car by police as she leaves the National Police anti-drug headquarters

Alleged Dungannon drug mule Michaella McCollum has been told that she could spend 15 years in a Peruvian jail if she is convicted of trying to smuggle €1.7m worth of cocaine onto a flight to Spain.

However a prosecutor in Peru today confirmed that Ms McCollum and her co-accused Melissa Reid could serve their sentences in the UK if they plead guilty to the offence.

Prosecutor Luis Mendoza, who specialises in the area of Narcotics, indicated that the two women could be entitled to return home in order to complete their jail terms.

"The British citizens agree to the position of the Public Ministry, if they continue with their strategy they can go to trial," he said.

"However, they are able to qualify for an early termination, which means they probably could get a sentence of six to eight years maximum. It's very possible that they may complete their sentence in the UK.

"There is an agreement in our country that those convicted can choose an early termination procedure, assuming their guilt and paying civil damages and agreeing to the judgement, meaning there is no kind of appeal."

The comments are sure to be closely examined today by Ms McCollum's family and solicitor Peter Madden.

Mr Madden did not respond to requests for comment.

Melissa Reid's family have already strongly indicated that they will pursue a path which will allow her to serve out her sentence in the UK.

Although the Glasgow woman's family still maintain the girls were forced to smuggle the drugs, they say they are determined to get her home.

"We still believe she was coerced into it, but obviously now we realise she needs to plead guilty, just to get her home basically," according to her mother Debbie Reid.

Ms McCollum and Ms Reid, both aged 20, have been in prison in Peru since last month after they were caught with €1.7m worth of cocaine in their suitcases at Lima Airport.

The pair reportedly told the Peruvian authorities they were both kidnapped at gunpoint and forced to travel to Majorca from the neighbouring island of Ibiza.

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