Belfast Telegraph

Thursday 26 May 2016

Don't go down the road of drugs

Editor's Viewpoint

Published 13/01/2014

Many people who have read Michaella McCollum's version of the events which led up to her imprisonment in Peru for drug smuggling will have little sympathy for a young woman who appeared to play a major part in her own downfall.

However, it would take someone with a heart of stone not to have some recognition of the pain being experienced by Michaella and her family.

She is open concerning her use of drugs in Ibiza, but she consistently protests her innocence about smuggling, and there is a ring of truth about her claim that she pleaded guilty to lessen her sentence and that she had no choice in this.

There will also be a recognition that the jail conditions in Peru are squalid compared to those back home, but this is well-known from the stories of other people who have been incarcerated in equally difficult circumstances in Peru, and other countries where drug smuggling presents a major challenge to the authorities.

There is little doubt that many people believe that Michaella McCollum should have known better in the first place, that she should not have been surprised by the jail conditions, and that she is lucky not to be serving a much greater sentence.

That said, however, there should be a degree of sympathy for her family who obviously had no idea of what she had been doing, and this has had a particularly serious effect on her mother.

Not surprisingly, and perhaps even commendably, the family resolutely believes in her innocence, and this must bring her some comfort in the most trying of circumstances.

She is a relatively young girl, and she is paying a very high price for at best her poor judgement, or at worst, for the actions she took deliberately and which have landed her in a Peruvian prison.

Perhaps the real lesson is for others to steer clear of drugs totally, and it is also a warning to every parent and every family. The roadway to drugs is littered with horrendous stories of pain and suffering for everyone.

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