A Belfast solicitor is flying out to Peru to advise a Dungannon woman held in prison there accused of smuggling cocaine.

Peter Madden, of Madden & Finucane Solicitors, will spend at least a few days in Lima where Michaella McCollum Connolly, 20, from Co Tyrone, and Melissa Reid, 19, Scotland are being detained.

The women, who are accused of trying to leave the country with £1.5m of cocaine in their luggage, were arrested last week trying to board a flight from the Peruvian capital to Madrid.

The pair are claiming that they were forced to carry the drugs after being threatened by a gang at gunpoint.

Speaking outside George Best Belfast City airport on Thursday, Mr Madden said the court proceedings could take a long time.

“It is a question of considering what the state prosecutor is proposing to do,” he said.

“She [Michaella] is doing as well as could be expected. If she is charged, there will be a trial so it could take a while.”

He said Ms McCollum Connolly sounded well when he spoke to her on the phone.

“It’s a difficult position for a young girl to be in that environment, but I advised her briefly over the phone,” he said.

“It’s just a matter of finding out how she’s doing, what her conditions are and trying to get those conditions improved if necessary.

“I need to find out exactly what the legal position is and what the procedures are.”

He will discuss with local lawyers whether bail would be granted if Michaella is charged.

Official questioning is yet to take place as police are waiting for a translator, that is expected to go ahead in the next few days.

Mr Madden is one of Northern Ireland’s best-known lawyers and has been involved in a number of high profile cases.

A former colleague of murdered human rights solicitor Pat Finucane who was shot dead by loyalists in north Belfast in 1989, he was involved in the legal representation of three Irish republicans who were arrested in 2001 in Colombia for allegedly training members of FARC.