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Michaella must tread carefully on her return

Editor's Viewpoint

Published 15/08/2016

Michaella McCollum talking on RTE in April
Michaella McCollum talking on RTE in April

Michaella McCollum, who was jailed in Peru in December 2013 for her part in smuggling some £1.5m pounds worth of cocaine, is back home much sooner than expected, having served well under half of her six years and eight months sentence.

Many people would have expected her to have remained in prison for much longer, such was the very serious nature of her crime.

She was given no sympathy, and rightly so, when she admitted she knew what she was doing.

Not surprisingly, the realisation of what drugs can do to ruin lives and families only hardened the strength of feeling against her.

Many more would have been damaged if her mission as a drugs mule had been successful.

Her subsequent admissions of regret did little to soften public opinion, and her interview with RTE on her release in Peru seemed to many people to be merely a PR stunt.

The public noticed from her glamorous appearance that she seemed not to have suffered unduly in prison.

She emerged with a much softer look, and her infamous bun of hair had been transformed into flowing blonde locks. Nevertheless, she was very young at the time of her arrest, and people make mistakes when they are impressionable.

Michaella does not appear to be naive, but we must allow for this possibility.

People may feel that she has got off lightly, but the law has taken its course and she is now a free woman.

She has not sought to conceal her return home, and even if her words so far have not impressed, she must try to show that her actions will do so.

She should take this opportunity to urge other young people not to take drugs and to warn them of the dangers of doing so.

She might even seek work as a volunteer in a drugs rehabilitation centre to gain personal experience of the havoc caused by drugs.

However if she chooses to become a celebrity, either through television reality programmes or through other initiatives, she will encounter a very hostile reaction from the public.

She is lucky to be home so early, and she should be very aware of that.

She is entitled now to move on, but for her own sake and that of her friends and family, she should do so wisely.

That is the best she can hope to do.

Belfast Telegraph

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