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Peru drug smugglers set for UK prison transfer

Michaella McCollum, left, was sentenced to over six years for attempting to smuggle cocaine. Picture: AP

Michaella McCollum, left, was sentenced to over six years for attempting to smuggle cocaine. Picture: AP

  • by MARTYN McLAUGHLIN
 

CONVICTED drug smuggler Melissa Reid was a step closer to returning to Scotland last night after the Scottish Prison Service confirmed it has struck an agreement in principle with authorities in Peru for her transfer.

Reid, 20, from Lenzie, was jailed last year for six years and eight months along with accomplice Michaella McCollum, 21, from Dungannon, Co Tyrone, after admitting trying to smuggle cocaine worth £1.5 million from the South American country to Spain.

Concerns have been raised about the prison conditions in which the two women are being held, but lengthy negotiations now mean it is increasingly likely they will be granted a prison transfer back home. A Scottish Prison Service spokeswoman yesterday said it had approved a repatriation application it received from Lima earlier this year, and is now waiting for the Peruvian authorities to agree on the terms of the transfer.

She said: “We have given provisional consent to the Peruvian authorities, so basically we have agreed with Peru to take the individual, but Peru have to agree that the remainder of her sentence will be treated under Scots law.”

It is understood it will be several months before Reid’s return to Scotland is ratified.

Under Peruvian law, sentences for drug offences are not reduced, meaning an agreement would have to be reached with the authorities in Scotland which, like the rest of the UK, operates early-release schemes.

A source in Lima said last night he expected the process to take around six months but added they could be on a plane back to Britain in three months if there were no bureaucratic hold-ups. Officials in Peru say they expect British authorities to be tasked with deciding whether to release the pair early on parole because no decision will have been taken by the time of the transfer.

Reid’s father, William, has said he has met justice secretary Kenny MacAskill and is hopeful that his daughter will serve the rest of her sentence closer to home. Reid and McCollum were caught with the drugs at Lima airport on 6 August last year.

They were working on the Spanish island of Ibiza when they claimed they were forced by Colombian drug lords who kidnapped them at gunpoint to board a flight with 24lb of

cocaine hidden inside food packets in their luggage.

Reid and McCollum faced the prospect of a maximum 15-year prison term but struck a behind-closed-doors plea bargain to secure a shorter sentence. They had previously been held at Lima’s Virgen de Fatima prison but were moved to the notorious Ancon 2 prison, where poor 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”.

A Northern Ireland Prison Service spokesman said: “We don’t normally comment on individual cases. All transfer requests are, however, dealt with as expeditiously as possible.”

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