A jury has reached a decision that the IPP (Imprisonment for Public Protection) sentence handed to Francis in 2006, when it was a mandatory sentence in certain conditions, caused or contributed to his death.

Philip Rule KC represented the family of the deceased. He was instructed by Olivia Coffey, Aston Luff, Hayley Chapman and Siri Beck-Friis of Hodge Jones & Allen.

Mr Williams, fearing the decision that he was to be recalled to prison after being made homeless, informed his probation officer that he intended to take his own life rather than face an indefinite period of prison.

Francis was one of the first individuals to be made subject to the controversial IPP sentence and the jury heard that since being released from prison, Mr Williams worked hard to build up his life, setting up a successful personal training business in Brighton. For 10 years, he had made a complete success of his life until IPP restrictions caused the end of an engagement, and COVID impacted his mental health and alcohol use. However, even when he was doing very well, he had lived with the fear of being recalled to prison at any time under the terms of the IPP sentence, which places individuals on indefinite licence for at least 10 years after release. Whilst he may have been eligible for the licence to have been ended previously, no action had been taken by the probation service to end it.

On the 27th January 2023, Francis’ fears became a reality after his probation officer informed him that he would likely be recalled to prison on an emergency basis, a rule which still applied to him under the IPP sentencing more than 12 years after his initial release from prison. During the conversation, Mr Williams told his probation officer that he would rather take his own life than return to prison and explained in detail how he would take his life.

His probation officer was so concerned that she contacted West Sussex Police, reporting Francis as a missing and vulnerable person she considered to be at high risk to himself. In her evidence, she stated that she wanted the police to safeguard him. However, despite this, almost no action was taken by police to locate and ensure Francis was safe. Instead, after receiving the recall notification, he was re-categorised as a wanted person on recall and the initial report was shut down before it was able to commence any missing person investigation. His body was sadly found the following afternoon, having taken his own life.

Upon the verdict being delivered by the jury, the Coroner has also indicated that he is likely to send a Prevention of Future Deaths report to the Ministry of Justice to highlight concerns over the risks IPP still poses to vulnerable individuals.

You can read about the case further here: https://www.theguardian.com/law/2024/mar/10/family-of-man-who-took-his-own-life-criticise-indefinite-sentences-ipp