Dungannon drugs mule McCollum to fund cost of transfer to NI prison

Michaella McCollum
Michaella McCollum

Convicted drugs mule Michaella McCollum will be required to pay the cost of her transportation to Northern Ireland from a Peruvian jail, the Department of Justice (DoJ) has said.

In response to a request from TUV leader Jim Allister, the DoJ pointed out that, as yet, no arrangements are in place for the requested transfer, but any prisoner would be required to pledge that the cost of all flights would be reimbursed to the public purse.

McCollum, from Dungannon, Co Tyrone, and her accomplice Melissa Reid from Glasgow were jailed in 2013 for six years and eight months.

The pair admitted trying to smuggle cocaine worth £1.5 million from Peru to Spain.

A justice department spokesperson said: “I am unable to detail the cost to the taxpayer of the transfer of Michaella McCollum from Peru to Northern Ireland given that no agreement has yet been reached with the sentencing state on repatriation and as a result no transport arrangements have been made.

“However, under the Repatriation of Prisoners Act 1984, the Northern Ireland Prison Service requires transferring prisoners to sign an undertaking to repay expenses incurred in connection with their conveyance to the United Kingdom.

“The Act does not require the prisoner to make payment towards the cost of providing an escort.”

Responding to a further request for details on the estimated cost of allowing the Tyrone woman to serve her sentence at Hydebank Wood near Belfast, the DoJ said such detailed information was not available.

“The Northern Ireland Prison Service does not calculate figures that detail the annual cost of keeping each additional prisoner in custody.

“Rather a ‘cost per prisoner place’ figure is published annually which is worked out by dividing the Prison Service’s annual operating expenditure (excluding non-standard costs) by the average total number of prisoner places defined as certified normal accommodation.

“It cannot be used to indicate the cost of keeping one additional prisoner as this must be met from within the existing budget,” the spokesperson added.

Mr Allister has tabled an additional written question, asking how many prisoners in similar situations have failed to repay the cost of a prison transfer since 2010.