Reporting Restrictions: Murder scene teen can be named

A teenager who went to a murder scene to hide evidence can be named after an Oxford Mail journalist challenged a reporting restriction.

17-year-old Alfie Simms was convicted, together with a 26-year-old man of conspiring to pervert the course of justice. They went to the scene just minutes after the attack which killed 27-year-old Chris Lemonius, seeking to hide weapons and other evidence. Four other men were convicted of Mr Lemonius’ murder, and a fifth man was convicted of manslaughter, after the attack which was carried out with golf clubs and machetes.

A reporting restriction under section 45 of the Youth Justice and Criminal Evidence Act 1999 had been made, but Oxford Mail journalist William Walker challenged it after Simms was convicted. The judge was persuaded to lift the order, so Simms can now be named.

The case had attracted huge interest locally, and the order would have lapsed automatically on Simms eighteenth birthday in December in any event. Lifting the order the judge cited the public interest in reporting of the case, particularly given the fact that Simms would turn eighteen only two months later.

This case is one of a number which show journalists can and should challenge reporting restrictions if they feel there is a public interest in reporting names or other details which are restricted by the order. In criminal cases such as this one, even if an order has been granted during trial to protect a young person, a judge may be persuaded to lift an order if the defendant is convicted of a serious offence, given the public interest in knowing who the offender is once the case has been proven. Journalists should also always remember that orders under section 45 of the Youth Justice and Criminal Evidence Act 1999 lapse automatically when the young person reaches eighteen. As in this case, if that is not far off, this may also be a persuasive factor for a judge.