Belfast Telegraph

Peru drug arrests: Michaella McCollum Connolly's legal team mulls over guilty plea

BY CLAIRE WILLIAMSON

Michaella McCollum Connolly's lawyer has said he is considering the details of her co-accused's plan to plead guilty.

The 20-year-old woman from Dungannon was arrested along with Melissa Reid from Glasgow after they were accused of attempting to smuggle cocaine worth more than £1.5m out of Peru.

It comes after her co-accused Ms Reid said in an interview that she was prepared to plead guilty in exchange for a shorter sentence.

Speaking to the Belfast Telegraph, Peter Madden of Madden and Finucane solicitors said: "There's an indication there in the Mail On Sunday which I've read and I'm just considering what response should be made to that at this stage."

It is understood that pleading guilty to the charges could see the two young women's sentences cut from up to 25 years to six years and eight months.

The pair are also being represented by local Spanish-speaking lawyers Fischman and Fischman, as the defence must be accredited with the Peruvian government and the bar association of Peru.

Emilia Fischman told the Belfast Telegraph: "The girls will give their statement on September 24 in front of the judge.

"It's private with the judge and the district attorney, it cannot be seen before that. They will decide what they are going to do."

She added: "They are doing well, they are in a new prison where there are not too many people, it's not congested at all.

"They have a bed, it cannot be said about this prison that there are too many people in a small cell. They are comfortable.

"They are together in a room, which is a lot in this country where usually there are seven or eight people in a small cell. They have a big one with beds, they are in very humane conditions."

Melissa told the Mail On Sunday she did not want to be in jail until she was 35 years old. "After a lot of thought and advice from my lawyer, I am going to go in front of the judge and admit I was in possession of the drugs and that I went to Peru to pick up drugs to take to Spain – I am willing to plead guilty to that

"I did it under duress, I still maintain that, and I am glad I do not have to say I accepted money to do it."

Previously, her father William Reid said he thought if they pleaded guilty, it would be the "lesser of two evils".

Michaella's family have desperately pleaded for help in a bid to get their daughter home, and have vowed to visit her as often as they can. A fund was set up by Michaella's sister Stephanie to help pay legal costs, but as of the beginning of September it had only received £500, falling far short of the £20,000 target the family had initially set.

Michaella and Melissa are due to make their official pleas in court on September 24.

BACKGROUND

Michaella McCollum Connolly and Melissa Reid are accused of trying to smuggle 11kg of cocaine from Lima in Peru to the Spanish capital Madrid. Both girls had travelled to Ibiza to work for the summer. The drugs were discovered in the pair's luggage at Lima Airport last month. If they are convicted, the girls could face up to 25 years in jail. Melissa indicated she would be willing to plead guilty to lessen her sentence.

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