Peru Two: Sentence boost for Michaella McCollum and Scot Melissa Reid as prosecutors signal U-turn
Prosecutors have announced they are ready to strike a deal with the so-called Peru Two and pave the way for the drugs pair to receive shortened jail sentences.
Dungannon woman Michaella McCollum and Scot Melissa Reid had hopes of a deal dashed in September after State prosecutors rejected their guilty pleas and demanded more information.
But a new prosecutor tasked with their case has told the judge who was due to try them he is happy with amplified statements they made in October.
The U-turn means Melissa and Michaella (right), both 20, are expected to benefit from an early termination process whereby drugs mules are spared a trial and automatically receive a sixth off a minimum eight-year sentence.
The pair were told late last week a hearing would take place today.
But their hopes of an end to the uncertainty of how long they face in a Peruvian jail were crushed yesterday when the hearing was cancelled due to a judicial strike. A new date for the hearing has yet to be set. Officials said they could offer no guarantee it will now take place before Christmas.
Chief prosecutor Gustavo Carvaja, who took over the case from predecessor Juan Mendoza in October, confirmed yesterday: "We have submitted our report to the judge and state we are happy for Melissa and Michaella to benefit from the early termination process.
"We have taken that decision after careful analysis of the case.
"The sentence the women receive is a decision for the judge. The minimum sentence for drugs trafficking is eight years and the maximum 15.
"There is provision under Peruvian law for a reduced sentence but it is by no means a foregone conclusion in this case."
A spokesman for the court in the Lima neighbourhood of Callao tasked with the case added: "I can confirm the sentencing hearing was due to take place on Tuesday, December 10. The reading of the sentence has been postponed due to an ongoing judges' strike."
Melissa's mum Debbie visited her daughter for the first time in prison last month.
She revealed the girls have to endure a military-style regime at Virgen de Fatima Prison in a rundown Lima suburb, where they share a cell with 38 other prisoners and cold showers and dawn wake-up calls are the norm.
If accepted within the early termination process, they hope to receive prison sentences of six years and eight months each.
It is expected they will apply for permission to serve part of their sentence in a UK jail once they have paid the Peruvian State compensation for their crimes.
STORY SO FAR
Michaella, from Dungannon, and Melissa, from Lenzie near Glasgow, have been in jail since their arrests in August.
They were stopped with more than 11 kilos of cocaine in their suitcases as they tried to board a flight from Lima to Spain.
They protested their innocence for weeks after their arrests – before finally coming clean and admitting they knew they were carrying cocaine.
They have continued to claim they were coerced into smuggling the drugs by criminals they say kidnapped them in Ibiza where they were working.