Belfast Telegraph

UK Website Of The Year

Michaella was a drug mule but legal highs make a real ass of the law

By Lindy McDowell

Published 10/06/2015

Jail job: Michaela McCollum Connolly
Jail job: Michaela McCollum Connolly

News from Peru ... it is reported that Tyrone drugs mule Michaella McCollum Connolly and her Scottish accomplice Melissa Reid, banged up in a "notorious" "hellhole" prison in that country, have both secured work in the prison's beauty salon. Who'd have guessed? A "notorious hellhole" prison with a beauty salon.

Apparently the girls now hope this new employment will help them secure earlier release.

Another local drugs smuggler, Lillian Allen from Belfast, a former inmate of the prison in which they're currently held, reveals that working in the salon is regarded as one of the "top jobs" in the joint. Some inmates, she confides, are reduced to making jewellery while others sew purses and wallets. Not bad work, any of it, if you can get it, you might think.

But with their new beauty therapist roles, Michaela and Melissa appear to have, as they say in the talent shows, nailed it. Whether doing a good job with the mascara wand will magic earlier parole is another matter entirely. (Although serving time in a hair salon brings a whole new meaning to dyeing to be set free).

The Peru Two were sentenced to over six years apiece in 2013 for attempting to smuggle drugs out of that country. Many people back then, including a considerable number at home, considered that a soft enough sentence. So the news that they are toiling over hot hair tongs, false eyelashes and Fake Bake is unlikely to encourage the view that they're now being treated all that harshly. If this is a "notorious hellhole" prison in Peru, what on earth are that country's cushier jails like? Still. The girls are young ... certainly they were young and witless when they got themselves embroiled in the drugs trade. And however benign their prison regime, they're a long way from those they love, and those who love them.

You have to remind yourself that they are not the only ones serving that six years plus sentence.

Also there is no doubt the girls were used by older, cuter, more evil players in the drugs trade. Not just as mules but as donkeys. How did they ever think they would get away with it? But given the publicity their case has attracted globally, the Peruvian authorities cannot be seen to let them get away with it. Or even to let them get away too lightly. Which is why, for all the talk of early parole, the pair remain inside, over there, for the foreseeable.

Ms Allen talks up the "horror" of their conditions. Eight women to a cell with a hole in the floor for a toilet, she says. But here's an even greater horror, Ms Allen. The grief of many a parent who has lost a precious daughter or a son to the sort of drugs you and the Peru Two were attempting to smuggle. At least the families of those Two know they are coming home ...

Back here it isn't just the more infamous narcotics that other parents now have to worry about. Innocuously labelled "legal highs" have become the new scourge, devastating so many homes. With legal highs much of the danger is in that very description. Legal. Young people hear that word and think in some vague way - "regulated". If something is legal it has to be okay, doesn't it? It couldn't be sold legally if it could kill? Well, it is. And it does.

And while it goes without saying that grappling with the internet trade in "legal highs" poses a gargantuan task involving many agencies and many countries (as the producers become ever more prolific and devious), that doesn't mean there isn't much more the authorities could try here to clamp down. First in the firing line should be the local dealers who flog "legal" highs, fully aware of the devastation they leave in their wake. The shopkeepers who cynically sell them as plant food or bath salts or whatever. The paramilitaries behind the rackets. The criminals.

The Peruvian authorities knew when they paraded and imprisoned those two silly young mules from this side of the world that they hadn't captured two Miss Bigs. But they were driving home a global message of zero tolerance we'd do well to note and replicate on this side of the world. Whatever you think about Peru's newest prison beautician, Michaela McCollum Connolly, she is, sadly, far from being the only local face of our ugly drugs trade.

God may be female, but not boss of Fifa

Two stories from the week's headlines ... the churches, it seems, are currently wrestling with a new theological question. Is God a girl? Some (women, mostly) claim He may be female.

Meanwhile, in other news, the Fifa scandal dribbles on. Local man Jim Boyce, opining on the subject of a new Fifa boss, makes passing reference to "whoever he might be ..."

To sum up then. A week in which it is suggested that God might be female. But it is commonly assumed that the boss of football won't ever be. Progress, sisters. Apparently that's also a game of two halves.

Speaking of loyalty, Beeb is in good Nick

Whatever you say about the Beeb, they do show support for workers who have been through the mill health-wise.

Political correspondent Nick Robinson in his brilliant Election Diary (Bantam Press) describes his election night return to duty - while still battling cancer.

He'd handed over to Andrew Marr on a show hosted by David Dimbleby. "There is something rather comic," he notes, "about a man full of antibiotics and chemo poison with half a voice being replaced by someone recovering from a stroke on a programme anchored by a 76-year-old." Comic, yes. But also, rather heroic. And uplifting.

Belfast Telegraph

Your Comments

COMMENT RULES: Comments that are judged to be defamatory, abusive or in bad taste are not acceptable and contributors who consistently fall below certain criteria will be permanently blacklisted. The moderator will not enter into debate with individual contributors and the moderator’s decision is final. It is Belfast Telegraph policy to close comments on court cases, tribunals and active legal investigations. We may also close comments on articles which are being targeted for abuse. Problems with commenting?

Read More

From Belfast Telegraph