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Michaella McCollum must prove her regret

Editor's Viewpoint

Published 04/04/2016

Michaella McCollum has been released (AP)
Michaella McCollum has been released (AP)

The release from a Peruvian prison of the young drugs mule Michaella McCollum after serving only part of her sentence may prompt people to think that she got off lightly.

She was caught trying to smuggle £1.5 million worth of cocaine, and sentenced to six years and eight months. However, she is now on parole after serving only two years and three months.

She was kept in the apparently tough Ancon 2 jail in Lima, but judging by her recent media appearance she seems to have survived pretty well.

Some of her critics have noticed her change of hair colour and a cosmetic makeover that makes her look somewhat more sophisticated than when she was arrested at Lima Airport and during her trial.

Judging by what she has said, it appears that she has spent part of the sentence reflecting on the gravity of her crime. She concedes that if the cocaine she was smuggling had made it to Europe many other lives would have been ended or seriously damaged.

She said: "I could have potentially killed a lot of people, not directly, but I could have caused a lot of harm." That appears like repentance, but if she had not been caught would she still have had thoughts of regret for what she had done?

Michaella waxes lyrical about what she missed while in prison, including the beauty of sunrises and sunsets. This may be true, but some people will detect a little of the black art of spin-doctoring around her first public statement since her release. There will also be concerns that she may make a large profit from writing and selling her memoirs, with the potential for lucrative book deals and film rights.

She has much to do to restore her reputation in the public eye given society's widespread abhorrence of drugs and of those who peddle them.

She talks of regret and of her wish to do good, and perhaps she has indeed learned a hard lesson. Michaella is young, and it would be a harsh heart that would deny her a second chance.

Above all she needs to reflect on her good luck in being given that second chance. She is still on parole, but if she had been arrested in some other country awash with drugs there would be no second chance. She might even have been executed, like others found guilty of a similar crime.

Belfast Telegraph

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