Jack Ritchie: coroner condemns ‘woefully inadequate’ care for gambling addict | Gambling

A coroner has described as “woefully inadequate” the information and treatment available for a 24-year-old problem gambler who took his own life in Vietnam.

David Urpeth, the Sheffield coroner, on Friday delivered a narrative conclusion into the inquest of Jack Ritchie, a gambling addict who was teaching English in Hanoi.

His parents, Charles and Liz Ritchie, had tenaciously fought for an inquest that not only examined their son’s death but also state regulation of the gambling industry.

The coroner did not rule that any arm of the state had breached any duty to protect Ritchie’s life.

It is believed to be the first time article 2 of the Human Rights Act has been engaged in a case relating to suicide after gambling. That meant its scope included examining whether any arm of the state breached its duty to protect Ritchie’s right to life.

Engaging article 2 had been opposed by lawyers representing the government.

Urpeth said it was clear that Ritchie was addicted to gambling and that the availability of treatment and information on its dangers were, before his death in 2017, “woeful”. Things have improved but there was still “significantly more” that needed to be done.

The Ritchie family argued that gambling killed their son. “It was the long term root and the short term trigger of Jack’s death,” they said.

Urpeth said that was a step too far. Instead he said said it was “abundantly clear” that gambling contributed to Ritchie’s death.

Ritchie’s gambling problem began when he was a sixth former, betting small stakes at a betting shop on controversial fixed-odds betting terminals (FOBTs).

It escalated over time, with Ritchie gambling away money left to him by his grandmother,his student loan while studying history at Hull University and, while he was in Vietnam, his overdraft.

The parents also argued that the state failed in its duty of care to their son and wanted to hold the state to account for failing to regulate the gambling industry properly.

They said there were no public health warnings about the risk to life posed by gambling products. Their son, the inquest heard, was not diagnosed or offered treatment that linked his symptoms to a gambling disorder.

The couple set up a charity, Gambling With Lives, to support affected families and raise awareness of the dangers gambling brings. The campaign says “very normal, bright, popular and happy young folk” are killing themselves and “gambling was their only problem.”

Ritchie was described by his father as “big in physique and in personality … big in heart and in spirit”.

Witnesses at the inquestincluded Sarah Gardner, the deputy chief executive of the Gambling Commission. It was put to her that action in addressing gambling-related suicide had been disappointing. “I wouldn’t disagree with that,” she said.

Another witness was Jonathan Marron, a senior civil servant at the Department of Health and Social Care, who said: “I don’t think there’s any dispute that there’s an association between gambling and suicide.”

As his session finished, Marron, the director general for the Office for Health Improvement and Disparities, choked back tears as he acknowledged the trauma Jack’s parents had been through.

He was the father of a teenage daughter, he said. “It’s clear that the work you have done has had a significant role in changing the focus of this issue.”

Everything changed for Ritchie, the inquest heard, when he won £1,000 in less than 30 seconds. From then on it was about chasing his losses and waiting for the big win.

Ritchie killed himself in Hanoi in November 2017. Forensic evidence presented to the inquest showed he was a regular visitor to the BetVictor online gambling website in the days leading up to his death.

His father told the inquest he had spoken to Jack’s friends. “They had all known that Jack gambled, but no one had understood the nature of the addiction,” he said.

“No one had thought that his life might be in danger. So many of them said if he had been taking hard drugs they would have spoken to him. They would have warned him. They would have spoken to us.

“But, actually, all they had seen was their brilliant friend being the same as he had always been – an enormous personality that they looked forward to meeting up with and having a laugh.”

In the UK and Ireland, Samaritans can be contacted on 116 123 or by emailing jo@samaritans.org or jo@samaritans.ie. In the US, the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is 1-800-273-8255. In Australia, the crisis support service Lifeline is 13 11 14. Other international helplines can be found at befrienders.org.

Author: wpadmin

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