Michaella McCollum Connolly And Melissa Reid Peru Drugs Bust Women 'Have No Blankets Or Food'

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The two British women charged with trying to smuggle £1.5m of cocaine out of Peru have no blankets and are being left to go hungry, a lawyer has claimed.

Peter Madden, who is representing Michaella McCollum Connolly, described the conditions of the holding cells his client and Melissa Reid are being kept in as “pretty grim.”

He said: “They are expected to lie almost on the floor. There is a sort of sponge bed which is not acceptable, it is not clean.

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Michaella McCollum Connolly (left) and Melissa Reid have been charged with drug offences

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The pair, both 20, deny the allegations and claim they were forced to carry the bags by armed men

"They have not been offered any food. To me that is unacceptable."

The pair, both 20, were formally charged on Tuesday and face a maximum prison sentence of 15 years if convicted, the prosecutor’s office in Callao, near Lima said.

They have spent the last two weeks in custody over the allegations but are expected to be transferred to prison to await their trial.

They were pictured on Tuesday in handcuffs being escorted by officers from the National Police anti-drug headquarters for medical examinations.

Madden said the two women had not been given anything to eat since dawn as they were taken through the Peruvian justice system on the day they were charged.

Peruvian police said they found around 24lb of cocaine hidden inside food packages as the women attempted to board a flight from Lima to Madrid.

The women, who both deny the allegations and say they were forced to carry the bags by armed men, are expected to enter not guilty pleas. If refused bail, they face up to three years in jail before a trial.

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The pair could spend time at Santa Monica women's prison in Lima

An Irish priest based in Peru has described prisons in the country as “very, very spartan", and warned the pair could be in for a “rough time”.

“Very often prisoners have to sleep on the floor. All they get is cardboard to protect them against the concrete floor,” Fr Maurice Foley told RTE’s Today With Myles Dungan.

He added: “The food isn’t good and hygiene is not good either. From that point of view I think they’re in for a rough time.”

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Nightclub hostess McCollum Connolly (left) and Reid are currently in a holding facility in Lima

It is being reported the women could be transferred to Lima’s Santa Monica women’s prison.

The Irish Times cites a 2012 United States Department of State report, which noted the prison had 1,035 inmates, more than double the 450 it was designed for.

It said inmates in Peruvian prisons had intermittent access to drinkable water, inadequate bathing facilities and unhygienic kitchen facilities.

It also states inmates with money had access to mobile phones, illegal drugs and meals prepared outside of the prison.

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Santa Monica prison houses 1,035 inmates - more than double the 450 it was designed for

Human rights organisation Amnesty International has expressed concern about conditions in Peruvian prisons.

“There are almost 50,000 prisoners in Peru for fewer than 30,000 prison places. Most prisoners report having to sleep in corridors,” Northern Ireland programme director Patrick Corrigan told the newspaper.

He added: “The number of foreign nationals held in Peru has been growing steadily in the last few years, due to an increase in arrests for cocaine trafficking.”

‘Mary’, a Minnesotan missionary has detailed her experiences of working with prisoners at Santa Monica on a travel blog.

She writes: "The prison does not supply anything. If you have no relatives here, you have absolutely nothing. Part of my job is to collect donations and bring them in.

"We bring them soap, toothpaste, toiletry, shampoo, clothes, blankets, magazines.... They have nothing to read. They need blankets because it gets freezing cold during winter.

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Inmates have limited access to drinkable water at the jail

"As soon as a new prisoner arrives we immediately give her spoons, forks, and a plate, otherwise they have to wait for someone to finish eating in order to use her plate."

There is a possibility the women could be sent to Ancon 2 – a prison where many foreigners are detained.

The BBC describes it as a modern facility, which does not yet suffer from the endemic problems of other jails in Latin America, namely overcrowding and crumbling infrastructure.

It currently houses 325 foreign inmates, more than 100 of which are women, the majority of whom are there on drug charges.

Melissa Reid and Michaella McCollum Connolly arrested in Peru
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