Tuesday 16 January 2018

Drug mules are jailed for seven years by Peru court

Michaella McCollum, handcuffed, arrives for a court hearing, in Lima, Peru, yesterday.
Michaella McCollum, handcuffed, arrives for a court hearing, in Lima, Peru, yesterday.
Michaella McCollum Connolly, cuffed, arrives at court at Sarita Colonia prison in Callao yesterday. Photo: Reuters
Melissa Reid, cuffed, arrives at court at Sarita Colonia prison in Callao yesterday.
Melissa Reid, right, and Michaella McCollum, back, both handcuffed, arrive for a court hearing, in Lima, Peru, yesterday.
Michaella McCollum (dark blue sweater) and Melissa Reid (light blue T-shirt) leave the court at Sarita Colonia prison in Callao, Lima yesterday. Photo: Reuters
Joyce Fegan

Joyce Fegan

THE Irishwoman who was caught smuggling €1.8m of cocaine into Peru has been jailed for nearly seven years.

Michaella McCollum Connolly (20) and her Scottish co-accused Melissa Reid (20) were yesterday sentenced to six years and eight months by a Peruvian court.

McCollum, who travelled from Ibiza to Peru, was stopped at Lima airport on August 6, carrying €1.8m of cocaine.

McCollum's hopes for serving her term at home instead of a harsh Peruvian jail may become a reality as it has just been announced that Justice Minister Alan Shatter got the green light to begin drafting legislation to allow Irish prisoners abroad serve their sentences here.

The bill, in its earliest stages, will provide for the transfer of sentenced prisoners serving more than three years to serve the time in their home country.

Reports also emerged from Peru that the pair could be up for early release and freed on parole after two years.

Meyer Fishman, the lawyer for McCollum and Reid, said that "in theory they should qualify for early parole".

However, the law allowing for the early release was enacted 13 days after they committed their crimes. He also stated that they had received the "least worst option" in terms of sentencing as 15 years is the average term a drug smuggler can face.

TRANSFER

Mr Fishman admitted that neither of his clients had requested a prison transfer and it was something they would do through their embassies.

"Their version of events remains the same, that they were coerced into transporting drugs," said the lawyer, who was unable to say whether the women had named the people who apparently forced them into transporting drugs.

Officially their sentence will end on April 5, 2020, as their sentence was backdated to the the date of their arrest in August. However, the term will be reduced for good behaviour.

The Irish nightclub hostess -- who is from Co Tyrone -- spent five months in custody following her August arrest. News of her arrest came after her family launched an appeal to find her as she hadn't been in touch with them for nearly two weeks.

However, it emerged she had been languishing in a Peruvian jail during that time.

She had travelled from the party island of Ibiza to Peru via mainland Spain and was arrested in Lima airport carrying 11 kilos of Class A drugs. She pleaded not guilty, initially claiming she had been kidnapped by a gang on the Balearic island of Ibiza and forced to smuggle drugs.

Both McCollum and Reid then pleaded guilty in September in the hopes of receiving a reduced sentence but their pleas were thrown out by prosecutor Juan Rosas. He didn't believe their claims of kidnap and coercion and said they hadn't acknowledged their guilt.

The women were then forced to re-enter their plea a week later and the sentencing was a result of those negotiations. It happened in a closed courtroom and took just 20 minutes.

Irish Independent

Promoted Links

Today's news headlines, directly to your inbox every morning.

Promoted Links

Editor's Choice

Also in Irish News