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 has dealt with numerous cases involving vulnerable witnesses and defendants, including the use of section 28 pre-recorded cross-examination and intermediaries.
Recent instructions have included:
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 trial considering allegations of importing 270kg of cocaine, 2500kg of cannabis and 18.6m duty-free cigarettes, hidden inside shipping containers.
Led junior in a eight-handed 'Flying Squad' conspiracy focused on an OCG committing a series of robberies and burglaries across London.
Led junior in a 16-week immigration ‘cash for visa’ fraud trial.
Led junior in a six-handed conspiracy to facilitate illegal entry into the UK, using improperly obtained ID documents.
Led junior in a complex diminished responsibility murder trial at the Central Criminal Court.
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.
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 long-running neighbourhood dispute culminating in the use of a firearm to cause fear of violence.
Sole junior in a three-handed conspiracy to defraud a vulnerable victim of £170k.
Sole junior in a case involving the possession of a sawn-off shotgun and challenges to expert DNA evidence.
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.
Recent Advisory Work
Disclosure Junior - Op Tarthra (murder).
Disclosure Junior - Home Office 'Op Lexes' (immigration fraud).
Post-Conviction Disclosure Review - Post Office 'Horizon' Cases.
Disclosure Review - SFO Prosecution (fraud).
Secondment - CPS East of England Crown Court Unit.
Conspiracy to assist unlawful immigration
27 November 2023
Ben Holt led Sam Willis in the prosecution of Caolan Gormley who was...
28 years for man who killed sister-in-law with a hatchet
10 October 2023
Catherine Pattison and Sam Willis prosecuted this case of murder, which...
OCG prosecuted for spree of commercial burglaries
22 June 2023
Following an eight-week trial at Croydon Crown Court, eight members of an...
OCG jailed for 26 years
13 February 2023
Dickon Reid and Sam Willis prosecuted this...
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.
Sam Willis prosecuted this case of fraud by false representation and abuse of position, where an NHS worker had been submitting fabricated timesheets that were then paid by his partner (a manager in the same department). During a two-week trial, various strands of evidence collected by the NHS Counter Fraud Authority were presented to the jury, including timesheets, emails, door access records, and computer access logs.
Sam was instructed by the CPS Serious Economic, Organised Crime and International Directorate.
Sam Willis, led by Dickon Reid, prosecuted this organised crime group who were facilitating illegal entry into the UK by providing false passports in exchange for cash. Over a six-week trial, evidence against the seven defendants was presented showing numerous trips to European cities where false passports were handed over to asylum seekers who then used them to board flights to the UK.
Legal issues during the case included the use of evidence from foreign law enforcement authorities, the admissibility of a modern slavery expert's opinion on the evidence, and the extent to which a claim to be a modern slave could amount to an abuse of process.
Sam was instructed by the CPS East of England Complex Casework Unit.