Peru drug mule Michaella McCollum to be transferred to Northern Ireland prison

McCollum and Melissa Reid were sentenced to over six years in prison for attempting smuggle cocaine into Spain

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The Independent Online

Michaella McCollum, the Irish national who was convicted of drug smuggling last year, is to be transferred from a prison in Peru to a facility in Northern Ireland, Irish officials have confirmed.

But the logistics of the transfer could mean it is months before the 21-year old is moved, her solicitor has said. 

McCollum’s accomplice, Melissa Reid from Scotland, is still waiting for South American authorities to agree to move her back to the UK.

A solicitor has described the conditions of the Peruvian prison the pair are incarcerated in as horrendous.

McCollum, from Dungannon, Co Tyrone, and 20-year-old Reid, from Glasgow, admitted to smuggling drugs after they were caught carrying a £1.5 million haul of cocaine on a flight from Peru to Spain on 6 August last year.

Prior to their guilty plea, the women - who were working on the Spanish island of Ibiza - claimed Colombian drug lords had kidnapped them at gunpoint forced and them to board a flight with 24lb of cocaine in food packets hidden inside their luggage.

McCollum and Reid faced the prospect of a maximum 15-year prison term, but were able to secure shorter sentences.

Briton Melissa Reid, 19, who was arrested at Lima's airport carrying cocaine in their luggage, arrives at the Callao courtroom on December 17, 2013.

A letter from the Irish Republic's department of foreign affairs which confirmed McCollum’s move said: "The Peruvian authorities have confirmed that they have accepted Michaella's prison transfer request and have passed this to the UK National Offenders' Management Service (Noms) which co-ordinates prisoner transfers to the UK.

"In Ms McCollum's case, Noms liaises with the Northern Ireland Prison Service and with the Peruvian Prison Service on all aspects of the transfer."

During transfers, prisoners must be accompanied throughout their journey, and airlines and airports must be advised to enable them to put security arrangements in place at departure, transit and final stops. The 21-year-old’s is likely to be taken to Ash House Women's Prison at Hydebank Wood in south Belfast.

Video: Michaella McCollum and Melissa Reid questioned in 2013

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."

The women had previously been held at Virgen de Fatima prison in Lima, but were moved to the Ancon 2 prison, where McCollum is reportedly McCollum in a cramped cell with 30 other prisoners.

The situation at the mixed prison has previously been criticised by the Irishwoman's lawyer as "appalling.

Kevin Winters 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.

Additional reporting by  PA