A teenager who went to the scene of a brutal murder and tried to hide evidence left by a gang of killers was named after a challenge by a regional newspaper reporter.
Oxford Mail journalist William Walker persuaded Judge Ian Pringle QC to lift an order which had given anonymity to 17-year-old Alfie Simms, of Long Ground, Oxford, after the youth and another man were convicted of conspiring to pervert the course of justice.
Four other men were convicted of the murder of 27-year-old Chris Lemonius, who was hacked and beaten to death by a gang armed with golf clubs and machetes and left in an alleyway in the Blackbird Leys area of Oxford, and a fifth was convicted of manslaughter.
Walker challenged the anonymity order protecting Simms, made under section 45 of the Youth Justice and Criminal Evidence Act 1999, after the teenager and 26-year-old Saffon Fakir, of Territorial Way, Oxford, were convicted.
The court had heard that the pair went to the scene of the murder just minutes after Lemonius, who had suffered some 80 injuries, was left for dead, in a bid to seize weapons and hide evidence of the attack.
Walker told Judge Pringle that Simms should be named because of the seriousness of the offence, and the deterrent element of naming defendants.
Simms would be 18 in December – at which point the anonymity given under the order would automatically end, meaning that he could be named then, he said.
He also argued that given the significant level of public interest in the case, lifting the anonymity order outweighed the need to keep it in place.
Simms’ defence counsel told the judge that these were weak arguments and that naming his client could open him up to reprisals while in youth detention before he turned 18.
But Judge Pringle decided to lift the order, saying that there was significant public interest in naming him Simms, particularly as he wold be 18 in a couple of months.
Walker said: “This was a large-scale murder trial which rocked the community and emotions at court were high as with any case on that scale coming to an end.
“I felt that given his conviction, his age being close to 18 and the enormous public interest in the trial locally we had a very good chance of overturning the order.
“It was important to challenge such reporting restrictions, he said.
“If I hadn’t bothered to stand up and make the challenge, a man convicted of a serious offence would remain anonymous both to the local community and the wider public.”