UK Coroner Rules Addiction Led To Teacher's Suicide

March 7, 2022
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Britain’s gaming operators say they are "committed to going even further” in providing treatment for problem gamblers after an inquest heard how a teacher killed himself after battling addiction.

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Britain’s gaming operators say they are "committed to going even further” in providing treatment for problem gamblers after an inquest heard how a teacher killed himself after battling addiction.

The parents of the late Jack Ritchie called for a compulsory statutory levy on betting forms and for the National Health Service (NHS) to remove any gambling industry influence over information and treatment.

Sheffield coroner David Urpeth said on Friday that the 24-year-old’s death was a “stark reminder of the terrible consequences that can flow from an addiction to gambling”.

Urpeth said information about the dangers of gambling was available at the time of Jack's death, as was some treatment, but that "such warnings, information and treatment were woefully inadequate and failed to meet Jack's needs".

Urpeth told the hearing the "evidence showed there were still significant gaps" in provision for gambling disorders and warnings about the dangers of gambling.

"Sadly, this addiction spiralled out of control and led to his suicide … gambling contributed to Jack's death".

The coroner said he would write to appropriate government departments with warnings about how future deaths can be prevented, and highlighted the need for more training for general practitioners (GPs) about gambling disorders.

A spokesman for UK lobby group the Betting and Gaming Council (BGC) said: "Any suicide is a terrible tragedy and we are not in any position, nor would it be right, for us to comment on any tragic individual case.

"As the mental health charity Mind and others acknowledge, the reasons behind any suicide are 'complex and can have lots of different causes’,” he said.

The spokesman said the industry has introduced "significantly strengthened safeguards for customers" and that recent figures show the rate of problem gambling has gone down.

"The BGC's largest members committed to spend an additional £100m [$132m] for the treatment of problem gambling, including treatment for a minority of those who are suffering from serious addiction, between 2019 and 2023.

"We are committed to going even further and strongly support the government's Gambling Review as an opportunity to further drive change."

After the conclusion of the inquest into Ritchie’s death in Vietnam in November 2017, Liz and Charles Ritchie — who have set up the charity Gambling With Lives — attacked gambling companies and the government.

Liz Ritchie said: "Jack was abused by parasites who inflict life-threatening illness for profit and then blame the victims, making them feel that everything is their fault and that they are better off dead.

"As his family we know that Jack was not the problem and in our grief we are also victims of predatory companies and a collusive government."

Her husband said: "The coroner heard clearly that gambling kills and he concluded that multiple state failings contributed to Jack's death.

"Gambling was the root and trigger of Jack's death. The coroner heard that 'it took hold of a happy, healthy 17-year-old child and killed him'.

"The government tried to blame his death on other factors — but there was none."

Charles Ritchie added: "The Government accepted that our frontline NHS staff — our GPs, our nurses — had no training to be able to recognise, diagnose or treat gambling disorders.”

Last month the NHS confirmed that it was severing funding from the gaming industry to pay for betting addiction clinics.

"It must now be clear we need a statutory levy for the NHS to remove any gambling industry influence over information and treatment,” Charles Ritchie said.

The hearing was the first Article 2 inquest in a case relating to suicide following gambling. Article 2 of the European Convention on Human Rights requires investigation of whether any arm of the State has breached its duty of care.

The inquest heard that Jack Ritchie was teaching English in Hanoi when he died, after years of battling a gambling disorder, which started when he began using fixed-odds betting terminals at the age of 16 or 17.

A UK Gambling Commission spokesman said: "Jack's death was a tragedy and we have met and spoken with Jack's parents on several occasions to understand and agree how we can learn from their experience to inform the way we work.

"These conversations, along with those of others who have experienced harm, strengthen our commitment to protect consumers and make Britain's gambling market fairer and safer."

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