Sean is an experienced, calm and focused barrister who both prosecutes and defends allegations of serious crime. He prepares his cases with great care, gives insightful advice and is a convincing jury advocate.
Background and expertise
Sean regularly handles allegations of murder, rape, serious organised crime and serious financial crime.
Defending in a five-handed murder trial - led by Anthony Berry QC.
16 year old Louis Johnson was stabbed to death at East Croydon station. Sean, alongside Peter Glenser QC, is prosecuting the young man accused of his murder in a trial that will take place at the Old Bailey.
Allegation of attempted murder. Sean prosecuted a son who set fire to his disabled mother after dousing her in white spirit. Eventually pleaded as a s.18 GBH and arson with intent. Assisted Judge with detailed sentencing note that resulted in defendant being found to be dangerous and receiving a 21 year sentence.
News report here
Defending an allegation of attempted murder. The complainant was stabbed seven times to the chest and identified his lodger, the defendant, as his attacker. Sean challenged the complainant’s credibility and asserted his identification was wrong. The defendant was acquitted.
8 defendants aged between 14-16 accused of attempted murder and wounding with intent in two knife attacks in East London. Acting as prosecution junior during five week trial. Dealt with bad character applications and two day sentencing hearing - both complicated by the age of the defendants all of whom were convicted.
News story here
Defending an attempted murder allegation deriving from a group knife attack in a night club. Sean ran a series of legal arguments as to the admissibility of forensic and medical evidence that ensured that in due course the prosecution offered no evidence on the attempted murder and accepted a plea to ABH with the defendant receiving a non-custodial sentence.
Charged with murder, Smith was the only one of five defendants to be acquitted after a five-week trial. Sean’s cross-examination of the prosecution’s cell site expert helped undermine the prosecution's case. Earlier, in the Divisional Court, Sean had successfully challenged a decision to refuse bail.
COMPLEX FINANCIAL CRIME
Sean is instructed as prosecution junior counsel in an ongoing SFO investigation.
Prosecuting a trial where the defendant was charged with the illegal import and export of critically endangered European eels. Sean, led by Peter Glenser QC, was instructed by the CPS Specialist Fraud Division after an investigation conducted by the National Crime Agency. European eels are considered so endangered that they are subject to the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) and there is a strict prohibition on exporting them to outside of the European Union. The offences spanned a two year period and involved 16 prohibited exports consisting of over 5 million elvers with an eventual retail value in the Far East of over £53 million. The defendant was found guilty of all offences. Southwark Crown Court.
See report here
Sean worked as part of a team of barristers, assisting a leading global bank with its regulatory obligations. He worked directly with bankers and executives to help them meet standards in relation to “know your client” and anti-money laundering requirements. During the project Sean worked from London, Geneva and Monte Carlo.
Sean successfully prosecuted a defendant responsible for the illegal importation of rare bird eggs into the UK in contravention of smuggling the Control of Trade in Endangered Species (Enforcement) Regulations 1997 (CITES).
Defending a young man accused of rape where a co-defendant was running a cut-throat defence. Sean persuaded the prosecution that the evidence was such that it was appropriate that they should offer no evidence against his client resulting in a not guilty verdict.
Sean represented a delivery driver accused of picking up a vulnerable child and raping her after a day of driving her around. He was also charged with a modern slavery offence in relation to transporting her. The trial involved careful cross-examination of a vulnerable and young witness. The defendant was acquitted of modern slavery and convicted of rape. Birmingham Crown Court.
News report here
Sean defended a university student accused of rape whose DNA was found on a swab of the higher vagina. The defendant insisted he had never penetrated the complainant. Sean challenged the forensic evidence and suggested a risk of contamination due to not following the correct procedure. The defendant was acquitted.
OFFENCES OF VIOLENCE
Defending a businessman accused of tying up complainant, holding him hostage, beating him and threatening to kill him. The complainant was discovered bound and bloodied by police. The defence was that he had agreed to be tied up and had set the defendant up. Advancing that defence involved a full on attack on the defendant’s character in cross-examination over three days. Defendant was acquitted on all counts. Manchester Crown Court.
Sean defended a young man accused of kidnapping the complainant whilst armed with a gun. The credibility of the complainant was forcefully challenged and the jury acquitted the defendant.
SERIOUS ORGANISED CRIME
Sean is instructed to defend in a 14 handed conspiracy to import and sell firearms.
Sean defended a young man accused of being concerned in a massive conspiracy to supply cocaine. After carefully analysing the evidence Sean was able to persuade the prosecution that they had mistakenly identified the defendant as part of the conspiracy when he was in fact a low level supplier of cannabis working alone. A potential sentence of many years was avoided and the defendant received a suspended sentence.
Sean represented three defendants accused of conspiring to supply cocaine. Sean ran legal arguments at an early stage that led to the prosecution dropping the allegation against two of the defendants; then further legal arguments at trial in relation to non-disclosure that led to the prosecution offering no evidence against the third.
Professional Commentary and Attribution
"He sees the wood from the trees" (Legal 500 -2020)
"His easy-going manner belies the quality of his advocacy, both oral and written." (Legal 500, 2017)
PROFILE: Sean Sullivan
‘Unafraid, and this shows in his approach to situations.’
Legal 500, 2018
Confiscation / POCA
Fraud, Bribery & Corruption
Regulatory / Disciplinary
Financial and Corporate law
020 7489 2727
BA Jurisprudence, St. Edmund Hall, University of Oxford.
CPS Panel (Grade 3)
CPS RASSO panel
Accredited pupil supervisor
Accredited to deal with vulnerable witnesses