PERU DRUG MULES PLEAD GUILTY – Michaella McCollum Connolly and Melissa Reid have entered a guilty plea with the Peruvian courts.
The two who were caught in August attempting to smuggle £1.5m worth of cocaine out of Peru to Spain; both have take advice from their legal counsel and pleaded guilty to the charges of narcotics smuggling.
The plea was made in the judge’s chambers along with members of the defence and prosecuting team in the capital of Lima.
According to Michaella McCollum Connolly and Melissa Reid, they were forced to smuggle the drugs under the threat of death by a drugs gang in Spain, however no evidence has been brought to substantiate their claims.
During the last six weeks legal counsel for the duo continuously advised them to plead guilty as this would result in having to spend less time in a Peruvian prison.
If Michaella McCollum Connolly and Melissa Reid had decided to fight the case in open court and lost they both faced up to 30 years imprisonment; without the possibility of early parole.
The case was almost an open and shut case for the prosecution as both Michaella McCollum Connolly and Melissa Reid were found to be carrying such a large amount of cocaine – some 11kg.
The judge, on receiving their guilty plea ordered that Michaella McCollum Connolly and Melissa Reid be remanded in prison for a term of no less than 6 years and 8 month – this term is mandatory and the pair will not be eligible for early parole; due to a new law recently enacted by the Peruvian Government that forbids drug traffickers from gaining early parole due to good behaviour.
Prosecutor Juan Bautista Mendoza pointed out to Associated Press that Michaella McCollum Connolly and Melissa Reid could still have their sentences reduced by a judge if they were to both co-operate fully with Peruvian authorities and testify against co-conspirators.
Michaella McCollum Connolly and Melissa Reid will finally hear their fate at a court hearing in approximately two weeks. Counsel for the duo is likely to push the judge, at the final hearing, for a more lenient sentence due to circumstances of forced duress and a first-time offense.
Other members of the defence team are also likely to plead with the Peruvian judiciary to have both women sent back to Britain to serve out their sentences – the defence team may try to convince the judge that it would save the Peruvian authorities from having to bear the cost of incarceration.
Another possibility is that the duo could be allowed to choose an early release by paying civil damages and agreeing to any judgment handed down; according to prosecutor Luis Mendoza.
Both Michaella McCollum Connolly and Melissa Reid maintain that their actions were under duress and that they did not accept money for smuggling the drugs; something that many, including members of their families find hard to believe.
More on this news… The Guardian