Peru police officer says McCollum could face eight years if found guilty

Friday 16 August 2013 22.58
Melissa Reid and Michaella McCollum both deny charges of drug smuggling
Melissa Reid and Michaella McCollum both deny charges of drug smuggling

An Irish woman accused of drug-smuggling in Peru could face up to eight years in prison if found guilty.

The police officer in charge of the investigation said this could be reduced if Michaella McCollum and her co-accused Melissa Reid co-operate with police.

Police Colonel Tito Perez made the comments to journalists in Lima.

Ms McCollum from Co Tyrone is being held along with Scottish woman Ms Reid, 19, for allegedly attempting to smuggle 10.8kg of cocaine to Spain from Lima's international airport.

Both deny the accusations, and say they are victims of a violent gang who coerced them into carrying the drugs.

Today, Ms McCollum's brother Keith and her solicitor Peter Madden visited her at the drug control centre where she is being held.

The Irish Archbishop in Lima Sean Walsh accompanied them to visit her.

William Reid, the father of Melissa, visited her in the detention centre for the third time today.

He declined to answer questions from the media gathered outside.

Police are waiting for a translator before officially questioning the two women, which is expected to happen in the next few days.

They may be held pre-charge for up to 30 days and could then spend up to three years in prison before a trial.

A priest based in Lima said conditions in Peruvian jails were harsh.

Fr Maurice Foley, who is currently on a visit to Ireland, said there were no individual cells and the two women could be accommodated in a large holding area with up to 50 other women.

He said if convicted they could receive sentences of up to eight years, but could end up serving a much shorter time due to other considerations, such as time off for good behaviour.