Prison move for Dungannon drug woman approved

Michaella McCollum and Melissa Reid
Michaella McCollum and Melissa Reid

Dungannon drug smuggler Michaella McCollum could soon be serving her prison sentence behind bars in Northern Ireland, after it was confirmed that her repatriation has been approved by the head of the Prison Service here.

According to a RTE news report, all necessary paperwork has been sent to Peruvian authorities considering the application for transfer.

Michaella McCollum, and her co-defendant Melissa Reid from Scotland, were imprisoned in 2013 for six years and eight months after admitting trying to smuggle cocaine worth €1.9m from Peru to Spain.

Director General of the Northern Ireland Prison Service (NIPS), Sue McAllister, told Ms 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, previous unrelated correspondence with Ms McCollum’s solicitor Kevin Winters has stated.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.

Her final destination would likely be Ash House Women’s Prison at Hydebank Wood in south Belfast.

The Scottish Prison Service agreed in principle to a transfer for Ms 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 horrific conditions reportedly meant Ms McCollum was 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 her lawyer as “appalling”.

Mr Winters has said sanitation and toilet facilities are 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.