Michaella McCollum’s move to NI prison approved by Stormont

Peruvian authorities have documents necessary for repatriating drug smuggler

 Michaella McCollum  (L) has had her bid to be moved to a Northern Ireland  prison approved by Stormont. McCollum was convicted  of smuggling cocaine in Peru in 2013.  Photograph: Reuters

Michaella McCollum (L) has had her bid to be moved to a Northern Ireland prison approved by Stormont. McCollum was convicted of smuggling cocaine in Peru in 2013. Photograph: Reuters

 

The repatriation of convicted drugs smuggler Michaella McCollum to Northern Ireland from Peru has been approved by Stormont’s justice minister.

The necessary paperwork has been sent to Peruvian authorities considering the application for a transfer, a letter from the Northern Ireland Prison Service (Nips) has disclosed.

Melissa Reid, from Scotland, and McCollum, from Co Tyrone, were imprisoned in 2013 for six years and eight months after admitting trying to smuggle cocaine worth £1.5 million (€1.9 million) from Peru to Spain.

A solicitor has described the conditions of their detention as horrendous.

Stormont minister of justice David Ford said: “After consideration of the facts of this case, including the difficulty encountered in maintaining family contact, I am content to approve the repatriation to Northern Ireland of Michaella McCollum.”

McCollum, from Dungannon, and Reid were caught with 24lb of cocaine in food packets hidden inside their luggage at Lima airport on August 6th, 2013 attempting to fly to Spain.

They had claimed they were forced to carry the drugs but pleaded guilty to charges later that year.

McCollum and Reid faced the prospect of a maximum 15-year prison term but struck a plea bargain to secure a shorter sentence.

Sue McAllister, director general of the Nips, told McCollum’s legal team: “I can confirm that the Peruvian authorities have all of the documentation they require to enable them to make a decision on your client’s application for repatriation.

“This paperwork includes confirmation that Nips is prepared to accept her as a transferred prisoner.

“However, the final decision on the application is a matter for the Peruvian ministry of justice and human rights.”

The logistics of the transfer will be complicated, according to previous correspondence between authorities and McCollum’s solicitor Kevin Winters.

Prisoners must be accompanied throughout their journey. Airlines and airports must also be advised, with security arrangements put in place at departure, transit and final stops.

The Scottish prison service agreed in principle to a transfer for Reid last year but is still waiting to hear from the Peruvian authorities, who must confirm that they are happy for her to serve the remainder of her sentence under Scottish law.

The pair had previously been held at Lima’s Virgen de Fatima prison but were moved to the Ancon 2 prison, where conditions reportedly mean McCollum is crammed in to a cell with 30 other prisoners.

The situation at the mixed prison, which is two and a half hours from Lima, has previously been criticised by the McCollum’s lawyer as “appalling”.

Mr Winters said sanitation and toilet facilities are extremely poor and all women have to use a hole in the ground which has to be covered up because of the presence of vermin.

PA