Women may be moved to minimum security Peru jail

Michaella McCollum Connolly and Melissa Reid appear in court again


Michaella McCollum Connolly and Melissa Reid appeared in court again late yesterday following last week’s rejection of their guilty plea by Peruvian state prosecutor Juan Rosas.

The case was again heard at the Sarita Colonia jail in Callao on the outskirts of Lima.

According to the court press release both Ms McCollum Connolly (20) from Dungannon, Co Tyrone and Ms Reid (20) from Glasgow, made further declarations about their case in front of judge Pedro Miguel Puente Bardales. But the proceedings were being held in reserve by the court.

The judge decided to ask for further clarification from the women following a petition from the prosecution.

The release adds that last week both women had pleaded guilty and asked to be considered for the “early termination” process.

“Early termination”implies that there is no trial once the prosecution and defence reach an agreement. The judge then decides on a sentence based on the agreement reached by both parties.

According to Article 296 of the Peruvian Penal Code, both women could receive a sentence of between eight and 15 years in prison. Early termination allows for the number of years to be reduced, which in Ms McCollum Connolly and Ms Reid’s case might mean a sentence of six years and eight months’ jail time.

On Wednesday last, Mr Rosas rejected Ms McCollum Connolly and Ms Reid’s guilty plea, saying, “The state prosecution considers that they [Michaella McCollum Connolly and Melissa Reid] have not fully accepted the charges.”

During the previous hearing at the jail on Tuesday September 24th, both women accepted the charges put forward by the prosecution and pleaded guilty to drug trafficking.

According to the court press release on that date, Ms McCollum Connolly and Ms Reid explained the circumstances under which they received and transferred the drugs, along with the names of contacts they were co-ordinating with to transport the cocaine from Peru to Spain.

It went on to say that both Michaella McCollum Connolly and Melissa Reid accepted total responsibility.

However, the following day the prosecution said it did not accept their confession.

According to Peruvian law, “A confession of guilt is valid only when it is sincere and there is a full acceptance of responsibility.”

It is on this point that the state prosecutor Mr Rosas rejected the women’s guilty plea.

“They have simply accepted the transport of drugs, but their initial claim that they were both forced to do this against their will and that they had been kidnapped has not yet been clarified.”

Calling the claim of kidnapping and coercion “a version to excuse guilt”, Mr Rosas then petitioned the judge for a further hearing to clarify that point and to give the women the opportunity “to reconsider their version and accept fully the charges put by the prosecution”.

It is thought the women may be transferred to Ancón 2, a minimum security prison about an hour north of Lima.

Ancón 2 is made up of four holding areas or “mini-prisons” and is considered a flagship prison by Jose Luis Perez Guadalupe, president of the Peruvian prison service (INPE). It is one of the most modern jails in the country and currently has 1,600 inmates.

Prisoners have the option to study pre- or post-university courses or take workshops such as cookery, hairdressing or beauty therapy.

The majority of foreign women prisoners in Peru are being held in Ancón 2.

Meanwhile, AP are reporting that the state prosecutor Juan Mendoza has indicated the judicial investigation could last until February, before any sentence might be passed.