Peru drugs: Michaella McCollum and Melissa Reid admit charge

The pair were arrested in August after cocaine was seized at Lima airport

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Two women from the UK have pleaded guilty to attempting to smuggle 11kg (24lb) of cocaine out of Peru.

Michaella McCollum, of Dungannon, County Tyrone, and Melissa Reid, of Lenzie, near Glasgow, appeared before a judge at a closed hearing in Lima.

The women, both 20, were caught with the drugs - said to be worth £1.5m - at Lima airport in August, and had said they were forced into carrying them.

They will be jailed for at least six years and eight months, the court said.

On Tuesday, the pair were transported by van under armed guard from the prison where they are being held to Callao prison where the hearing took place.

They were then returned to the women's prison where they are being held to await their sentencing hearing on 1 October.

A spokesman for the Peruvian court confirmed they had admitted the offences.

It is understood the pleas were made in exchange for a shorter sentence.

A court spokesman said: "They will automatically have a sixth off the minimum jail sentence of eight years and will be sentenced to six years and eight months in prison."

Lawyers for the pair said they would make no comment until after the young women were sentenced.

McCollum's solicitor, Peter Madden, said: "I intend to travel to Lima next week to attend the sentencing hearing and after the sentence is handed down by the judge, it will be possible to make further comment."

Kidnapping claim

At the scene

How much success Peru and other Andean nations are having against the cartels and the drugs barons is questionable.

As long as there is demand in Europe and North America, not to forget the growing "markets" of Brazil and Argentina, there's little realistic hope of stemming the flow of narcotics.

Yes, Peru can boast another successful, high-profile drugs bust and the warnings it sends out to other would-be mules.

But as two young women await their sentences, Peru's newly acquired status as the world's number one producer of the raw material for producing cocaine is a statistic that betrays the truth of where the "war on drugs" is really at.

McCollum and Reid had been stopped at Lima airport as they attempted to board a flight to Spain.

They were found to be carrying cocaine hidden in food packets.

The women had reportedly told the Peruvian authorities they were working in Ibiza and did not meet before they were both kidnapped at gunpoint and forced to travel to Majorca.

They claimed they were then sent to Peru and forced to carry the drugs in their luggage.

It has been suggested the women may be able to serve part of their sentence in a UK prison.

The UK Foreign Office has confirmed there is a prisoner transfer agreement between the UK and Peru.

The Ministry of Justice added that the country receiving the prisoner would pay the cost of them serving their sentence.

Prisoners who want to serve their sentence in either Northern Ireland or Scotland have to apply to the prison service for their part of the UK.

A spokesman for the Northern Ireland Prison Service said McCollum would need to make representation initially to the Peruvian authorities.

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