Sydney lawyer escapes prison despite admitting stealing paintings
17 August 2012
A Sydney lawyer, Michael Gerrard Sullivan, has narrowly escaped conviction after admitting stealing two valuable paintings. A Penrith District judge accepted that his amnesia meant that he temporarily believed that he was an art thief and acted accordingly - and therefore he wasn't actually an art thief after all.
As previously reported
by RollOnFriday, Sullivan took the paintings in December 2008 at the Katoomba Fine Art Gallery. He was caught on CCTV taking the works by popular Aussie artist James Willebrant which were together valued at AUS$14,500. Sullivan, who has worked for top Aussie firms Mallesons, Freehills and Gadens, admitted the crime earlier in the year. But sentencing was postponed whilst medical evidence was considered. He claimed that he had "dissociative amnesia
" which made him temporarily think he was an art thief, and could thus not be held responsible for his actions.
||Dissociative amnesia. How it may look. |
Police found the paintings hanging on the wall chez Sullivan, and the lawyer claimed he had paid a deposit for the pictures, The Pommel Horse
and Light Presentation
. However the prosecution argued that there was a "common sense
" explanation for it all: ie that Sullivan actually was an art thief, not just someone who temporarily believed that he was an art thief whilst stealing two paintings.
Despite that, Judge Jennifer English took his medical reports and exemplary character into account before recording no conviction.