The target of a plot to murder students in a Columbine-style massacre in Loughborough can now be revealed.
Michael Piggin was detained indefinitely in 2014 after he was found with a weapons stash and detailed plans to attack Burleigh College. A judge banned the media from naming the college or identifying his friends Jacob Crouch and Ryan Towell, both now 20, who admitted possessing explosives.
The Court of Appeal has now overturned the order. Crouch and Towell were fighting to have the original court order which granted them anonymity, extended for life and not just until they were 18. But the deadline to lodge a further appeal against the ruling lapsed at midnight on Wednesday and without further challenge the BBC is now allowed to publish further details about Michael Piggin’s plot. Piggin had faced two trials for terrorism-related offences but in both cases the jury failed to reach a verdict. However, he admitted possessing explosives and a knife and was subsequently detained indefinitely under the Mental Health Act.
Both trials heard how Piggin compiled a hit list which included classmates and teachers at his former school, Burleigh College, since renamed Charnwood College. The then 17-year-old, who was diagnosed with Asperger’s syndrome after he was arrested, denied ever planning to carry out the attack, describing it as a fantasy to cope with bullying.
Throughout proceedings, the school could not be named in case it identified his friends Crouch and Towell – both aged 17 at the time – who were granted anonymity. The trio had made videos of themselves testing out petrol bombs and were spotted on CCTV buying parts for pipebombs. Crouch and Towell then ended up on Piggin’s hit list after they tried to talk him out of the school attack. All three were arrested after Piggin’s home was raided and officers discovered the weapons and his notebook entitled Operation Target Burleigh.
Crouch and Towell were handed 12-month youth rehabilitation orders after admitting possession of explosives and, during proceedings, an order was imposed banning them from being named.
Currently, child defendants who are tried in an adult court can be given anonymity but only until they turn 18.
The charity Just for Kids Law wanted that changed to lifelong anonymity but, after a lengthy legal battle, and evidence from the BBC, the Court of Appeal rejected the charity’s case.
However, the arguments did lead to a change in the law with the introduction of the Criminal Justice and Courts Act 2015 which grants lifelong anonymity to children who give evidence as witnesses.
Lawyer Nicola Cain said the hearing had implications for thousands of court cases involving youngsters. “The purpose of this legislation was to protect children, not when they become adults,” she said. “It is particularly important in cases where people are the subject of further convictions and it’s important for the media to be able to report on their previous convictions.”