Sam is a specialist criminal barrister, instructed for both prosecution and defence. His practice is focused on serious and complex cases, usually involving organised crime, violence, firearms, drugs, and fraud. He is on the CPS General Crime, Serious Crime, and Fraud Panels at Level 3.
As a committed advocate, Sam places great emphasis on thorough preparation and engaging with the real issues in a case, allowing for first-class advocacy before judge or jury. Formerly an IT developer, Sam is at ease conducting cases involving digital evidence. He draws on his experience to quickly analyse and present high-volumes of complex information. He is experienced with cases consisting of many moving parts, usually involving complex facts, multiple defendants, and lots of pieces of evidence to sift through.
Recent instructions have included:
Leading junior in an eight-handed money laundering case arising from a sophisticated fraud against a telecommunications company.
Sole and led junior in various EncroChat (Operation Venetic) cases, including a seven-handed conspiracy to supply cocaine and a three-week trial involving technical admissibility challenges.
Led junior in a 16-week importation trial, involving 270kg of cocaine, 2500kg of cannabis and 18.6m duty-free cigarettes hidden inside shipping containers.
Led junior in an attempted murder arising from the alleged sale of a revolver, where a 12-bore shotgun was then fired twice through the letterbox of a dwelling.
Led junior in the final trial of Operation Melrose, the investigation into the deaths of 39 Vietnamese migrants found inside a lorry in Essex in 2019.
Led junior in a 'Flying Squad' conspiracy focused on an OCG committing a series of robberies and burglaries across London.
Led junior in a complex diminished responsibility murder trial, prosecuting a defendant with a previous conviction for an unlawful killing in similar circumstances.
Sole junior in a sophisticated fraud involving complex computing evidence, where the defendants had created a website to steal online banking information.
Sole junior in a computer misuse and fraud case, where the defendants had allegedly sold access to the NHS Covid-19 vaccination database.
Sole junior in a three-handed conspiracy to defraud a vulnerable victim of £170k.
Sam has also been instructed in several long-term projects, including the Post Office 'Horizon' disclosure review, an SFO disclosure review, and a secondment to one of the CPS Crown Court teams. He was recently a keynote speaker at the Cityforum Digital Forensics Summit, presenting on the uses of digital forensic evidence in jury trials.
Outside of law, Sam is a keen skier, snowboarder, and scuba diver. He previously competed internationally for Great Britain in Canoe Marathon.
CPS Specialist Serious Crime Group Panel at Level 3.
CPS Specialist Fraud Panel at Level 3.
CPS Specialist Proceeds of Crime Panel at Level 2.
The Bar Council IT Panel.
MPhil, Criminology, University of Cambridge.
LLB, Law, University of East Anglia.
Scholarships and Prizes
Sir Louis Gluckstein Prize for best advocate - Lincoln’s Inn.
Levitt Scholarship - Lincoln’s Inn.
Buchanan Prize - Lincoln’s Inn.
Lord Denning Scholarship - Lincoln’s Inn.
Hardwicke Scholarship - Lincoln’s Inn.
Runner-Up, Law Reform Essay Competition - Bar Council.
Clare Hall Bursary - Clare Hall, University of Cambridge.
Prize for Exceptional Achievement - University of East Anglia.
Sam is the author of 'A Practical Guide to Digital Communications Evidence in Criminal Law' - a textbook aimed at practitioners looking to understand the most common types of digital communications evidence used in criminal prosecutions. It can be purchased directly from the publisher or from Wildy. A sample chapter is available here. He has also been asked to present Webinars on digital evidence, specifically 'Using Mobile Telephone Data' and 'Call Data, Cell Sites, and Internet Records'.
Sam also publishes a free weekly 'updater' of criminal law news - intended for practitioners, law students, and anyone with an interest in the criminal justice system of England and Wales. You can subscribe to Witness here.
Sam has published two mobile apps for criminal lawyers. Crime Fees is a free criminal legal aid calculator for barristers and solicitors. Available for iOS, Android and macOS, it can be downloaded here. Crime QRH is an easy to use guide to criminal offences for criminal lawyers and court advocates - a searchable database providing quick access to key details e.g. max sentence, guidelines, class of offence, dangerousness provisions. Available for iOS, Android and macOS, it can be downloaded here.
Dickon Reid and Sam Willis prosecuted the joint case arising from Operations Vivalas and Kikifeet. After a stabbing in North London, police found a loaded Turkish revolver inside the victim’s car. Less than 48-hours later, three masked men fired a 12-bore shotgun through the letterbox of a house connected to the stabber. The prosecution’s case was that the two incidents were linked - the second being a revenge attack for the first.
Charlotte Hole and Sam Willis prosecuted two importers for bringing into the UK 270 kilograms of cocaine, 2.5 tonnes of cannabis and 18.6 million duty-free cigarettes, all hidden inside shipping containers. Valued at £24m, the drugs had been vacuum-packed and then secreted inside crates of animal feed, yams and oranges. The cigarettes were concealed in a similar manner, hidden inside crates of snack food, coconut fibre and biscuits - the tax that should have been paid on them if imported lawfully totalled just over £9m.
The case followed an extensive investigation by the South West Regional Organised Crime Unit, who became involved when a farmer discovered 189kg of cocaine in a shipping container full of animal feed. The defendants had unsuccessfully tried to divert the container to their warehouse in London so that the drugs could be removed before the container reached the farm.
During the 16-week trial, the conspiracy was evidenced using material from numerous encrypted communications services. The jury heard technical evidence involving cell site analysis, VPN services, and IP address resolution.
Charlotte and Sam were instructed by the CPS Serious Economic, Organised Crime and International Directorate (SEOCID).
Ben Holt leading Sam Willis acted for the crown in the trial of Caolan Gormley, a haulage boss from Co Tyrone, who was convicted for his role in the death of 39 Vietnamese migrants in a Lorry in Purfleet Essex in the Autumn of 2019.
Sam Willis, led by Catherine Pattison, prosecuted this murder where the defendant was relying on the partial defence of diminished responsibility. The defendant accepted that he had killed his sister-in-law by brutally attacking her with a hatchet, but claimed that he had been suffering from paranoid delusions at the time that caused him to see her as a manifestation of the devil. The prosecution’s case was that this ’sham defence’ had been concocted by the defendant after his arrest to avoid the consequences of his actions. Following a three-week trial the defendant’s account was rejected by the jury and they convicted him of murder and making a threat to kill. Complexities included contested opinion evidence from four psychiatrists and the admissibility of the defendant's previous conviction in Moldova for the unlawful killing of his ex-wife.
Sam Willis, led by Charlotte Hole, prosecuted this case of an OCG committing a spree of commercial burglaries across London. The group targeted bookmakers and other shops, typically breaking in during the night using sledgehammers and then cutting open the shop's safe using power tools. Investigated by the Flying Squad, the evidence against the eight defendants was presented over four weeks and included CCTV, covert surveillance, forensics, mobile telephone downloads, and cell site mapping.
Sam was instructed by the CPS Complex Casework Unit.