Irish News

Sunday 13 July 2014

'Peru Two' plea deal on cards after new statements

Gerard Couzens

Published 10/12/2013|23:33

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missing Belfast girl  Michaella McCollum Connolly (pics from her Twitter Account)
Story Patricia Devlin
Michaella McCollum Connolly

PROSECUTORS have announced they are ready to strike a deal with the Peru Two and pave the way for the drugs pair to receive shortened jail sentences.

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Irishwoman Michaella McCollum Connolly and Melissa Reid, from Scotland, had their hopes of a deal dashed in September after state prosecutors rejected their guilty pleas and demanded they give more information.

But a new prosecutor tasked with their case has told the judge who was due to try them he is happy with new statements they made in private in October.

It is understood the women provided more details about the events which led up to their arrests. Prosecutors are now ready to accept their guilty pleas.

The U-turn means Melissa and Michaella, both 20, are now 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 sentencing hearing would take place today.

But their hopes of an end to the uncertainty of how long they face in a Peruvian jail were dashed yesterday when they were informed the hearing had been cancelled because of a judicial strike. A new date for the hearing has yet to be set.

FREEDOM

Officials said they could offer no guarantee it would now take place before Christmas.

Chief prosecutor Gustavo Carvajal, who took over the Peru Two's case from predecessor Juan Mendoza in October, confirmed yesterday: "We have submitted our report to the judge in charge of the case and state in that report 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.

"It will all depend on the outcome of the sentencing hearing.

"We had expected the hearing to take place this week were it not for the ongoing judicial strike."

Dr Carvajal declined to comment on whether the pair had given state prosecutors more information on the men they claim coerced them into drugs trafficking.

His predecessor offered the pair the chance of freedom before Christmas if they helped police capture the men and testified against them in a trial.

A spokesman for the court in Callao tasked with the women's 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.

"A new date will be announced as and when we know it."

Michaella, from Dungannon, Co Tyrone, and Melissa, from Lenzie near Glasgow, have been languishing 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.

The two are hoping that if accepted within the early termination process, they will receive prison sentences of six years and eight months each.

Irish Independent

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