Michaella McCollum to be moved to North jail

Michaella McCollum Connolly and Melissa Reid were caught with €1.7million worth of cocaine

Michaella McCollum has been sentenced to six years and eight months for attempting to smuggle drugs out of Peru. McCollum (20) and Melissa Reid (20) were arrested in August 2013 after over 11kg of cocaine was found in their luggage at Lima airport.

 

Co Tyrone woman Michaella McCollum Connolly, arrested a year ago for drug smuggling in Peru, is to be transferred from Lima to a prison in Northern Ireland.

McCollum’s Belfast-based solicitor Kevin Winters confirmed a “repatriation application” was pending and has been “outstanding for a number of months.”

“We were advised as of the 30th of July that Peruvian authorities had accepted the prison transfer request and passed it on to the UK National Offender Management Service (NOMS) which coordinates prison transfers in the UK”, Mr Winters told The Irish Times.

According to Mr Winters, the NOMS will liaise with the Northern Irish Prison Service and the Peruvian Prison Service on “all aspects” of the transfer.

Mr Winters added that the British Embassy in Peru had been in touch with the Irish Embassy in Mexico regarding the repatriation. The 21-year-old from Dungannon carries an Irish passport.

Michaella McCollum and Glasgow woman Melissa Reid were jailed for six years and eight months last September after pleading guilty to drug smuggling.

The women had been working on the Spanish party island of Ibiza last summer when they boarded a flight with 24lb of cocaine in food packets hidden inside their luggage.

They were caught with the €1.7million haul at Lima airport on August 6th, 2013.

The pair were transferred from the minimum security wing of the Virgen de Fatima prison in Chorrillos, Lima, to the notorious Ancon 2 prison, where horrific conditions reportedly mean McCollum is crammed into 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 McCollum’s lawyer as “appalling”.

Sanitation and toilet facilities are reportedly extremely poor and all females have to use a hole in the ground which has to be covered up because of the presence of vermin.

Amnesty International’s Northern Ireland director Patrick Corrigan said: “With massive overcrowding, poor access to medical care and endemic corruption throughout Peru’s penal system, it is understandable that prisoners from the UK and Ireland, such as Michaella McCollum Connolly, want to return home to complete their sentences.”

He said Peru’s prisons are full to overflowing, with almost 50,000 prisoners for fewer than 30,000 prison places.

Mr Winters says that it’s unclear how much of her sentence McCollum will serve once she returns to Northern Ireland. “She may be entitled to remission for good behaviour but that remains outstanding,” he said.

He said it could be months before she returns home as the logistics of the transfer will be complicated. Prisoners must be accompanied throughout their journey; airlines and airports must be advised, with security arrangements put in place at departure, transit and final stops.

Scottish authorities are currently considering a transfer application made by Reid earlier this year.

The Scottish Prison Service confirmed in April it had received a letter from the Lima authorities seeking the permission for Reid to see out the majority of her seven-year prison sentence in the UK.

Reid’s father, from Lenzie, near Glasgow, has said he has met Scotland’s justice secretary Kenny MacAskill and is hopeful that his daughter will serve the rest of her sentence closer to home.

It is understood that in most cases prisoner transfer applications are approved.

Additional reporting: agencies